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Title: The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future

Author: A. T. Mahan

Release Date: May 2, 2005 [EBook #15749]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Steven Gibbs and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.




United States Navy.

Author of "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783,"
"The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire,"
of a "Life of Farragut," and of "The Life of Nelson, The Embodiment
of the Sea Power of Great Britain."

Sampson Low, Marston & Company,

_Copyright, 1897,_
By Alfred T. Mahan.

_Copyright, 1890, 1893,_
By Houghton, Mifflin and Company.

_Copyright, 1893,_
By The Forum Publishing Company.

_Copyright, 1894,_
By Lloyd Bryce.

_Copyright, 1895, 1897,_
By Harper and Brothers.

_All rights reserved._

University Press:
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.


Whatever interest may be possessed by a collection of detached papers,
issued at considerable intervals during a term of several years, and
written without special reference one to the other, or, at the first,
with any view to subsequent publication, depends as much upon the date
at which they were composed, and the condition of affairs then
existent, as it does upon essential unity of treatment. If such unity
perchance be found in these, it will not be due to antecedent purpose,
but to the fact that they embody the thought of an individual mind,
consecutive in the line of its main conceptions, but adjusting itself
continually to changing conditions, which the progress of events

The author, therefore, has not sought to bring these papers down to
the present date; to reconcile seeming contradictions, if such there
be; to suppress repetitions; or to weld into a consistent whole the
several parts which in their origin were independent. Such changes as
have been made extend only to phraseology, with the occasional
modification of an expression that seemed to err by excess or defect.
The dates at the head of each article show the time of its writing,
not of its publication.

The thanks of the author are expressed to the proprietors of the
"Atlantic Monthly," of the "Forum," of the "North American Review,"
and of "Harper's New Monthly Magazine," who have kindly permitted the
republication of the articles originally contributed to their pages.


_November, 1897._


      From the Atlantic Monthly, December, 1890.

      From the Forum, March, 1893.

      From the Atlantic Monthly, September, 1893.

      From the North American Review, November, 1894.

      Harper's New Monthly Magazine, October, 1895.

      Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March, 1897.

      Harper's New Monthly Magazine, September, 1897.

      Harper's New Monthly Magazine, October, 1897.





_August, 1890._

Indications are not wanting of an approaching change in the thoughts
and policy of Americans as to their relations with the world outside
their own borders. For the past quarter of a century, the predominant
idea, which has asserted itself successfully at the polls and shaped
the course of the government, has been to preserve the home market for
the home industries. The employer and the workman alike have been
taught to look at the various economical measures proposed from this
point of view, to regard with hostility any step favoring the intrusion
of the foreign producer upon their own domain, and rather to demand
increasingly rigorous measures of exclusion than to acquiesce in any
loosening of the chain that binds the consumer to them. The inevitable
consequence has followed, as in all cases when the mind or the eye is
exclusively fixed in one direction, that the danger of loss or the
prospect of advantage in another quarter has been overlooked; and
although the abounding resources of the country have maintained the
exports at a high figure, this flattering result has been due more to
the superabundant bounty of Nature than to the demand of other nations
for our protected manufactures.

For nearly the lifetime of a generation, therefore, American industries
have been thus protected, until the practice has assumed the force of a
tradition, and is clothed in the mail of conservatism. In their mutual
relations, these industries resemble the activities of a modern
ironclad that has heavy armor, but inferior engines and guns; mighty
for defence, weak for offence. Within, the home market is secured; but
outside, beyond the broad seas, there are the markets of the world,
that can be entered and controlled only by a vigorous contest, to which
the habit of trusting to protection by statute does not conduce.

At bottom, however, the temperament of the American people is
essentially alien to such a sluggish attitude. Independently of all
bias for or against protection, it is safe to predict that, when the
opportunities for gain abroad are understood, the course of American
enterprise will cleave a channel by which to reach them. Viewed
broadly, it is a most welcome as well as significant fact that a
prominent and influential advocate of protection, a leader of the party
committed to its support, a keen reader of the signs of the times and
of the drift of opinion, has identified himself with a line of policy
which looks to nothing less than such modifications of the tariff as
may expand the commerce of the United States to all quarters of the
globe. Men of all parties can unite on the words of Mr. Blaine, as
reported in a recent speech: "It is not an ambitious destiny for so
great a country as ours to manufacture only what we can consume, or
produce only what we can eat." In face of this utterance of so shrewd
and able a public man, even the extreme character of the recent tariff
legislation seems but a sign of the coming change, and brings to mind
that famous Continental System, of which our own is the analogue, to
support which Napoleon added legion to legion and enterprise to
enterprise, till the fabric of the Empire itself crashed beneath the

The interesting and significant feature of this changing attitude is
the turning of the eyes outward, instead of inward only, to seek the
welfare of the country. To affirm the importance of distant markets,
and the relation to them of our own immense powers of production,
implies logically the recognition of the link that joins the products
and the markets,--that is, the carrying trade; the three together
constituting that chain of maritime power to which Great Britain owes
her wealth and greatness. Further, is it too much to say that, as two
of these links, the shipping and the markets, are exterior to our own
borders, the acknowledgment of them carries with it a view of the
relations of the United States to the world radically distinct from the
simple idea of self-sufficingness? We shall not follow far this line of
thought before there will dawn the realization of America's unique
position, facing the older worlds of the East and West, her shores
washed by the oceans which touch the one or the other, but which are
common to her alone.

Coincident with these signs of change in our own policy there is a
restlessness in the world at large which is deeply significant, if not
ominous. It is beside our purpose to dwell upon the internal state of
Europe, whence, if disturbances arise, the effect upon us may be but
partial and indirect. But the great seaboard powers there do not stand
on guard against their continental rivals only; they cherish also
aspirations for commercial extension, for colonies, and for influence
in distant regions, which may bring, and, even under our present
contracted policy, already have brought them into collision with
ourselves. The incident of the Samoa Islands, trivial apparently, was
nevertheless eminently suggestive of European ambitions. America then
roused from sleep as to interests closely concerning her future. At
this moment internal troubles are imminent in the Sandwich Islands,
where it should be our fixed determination to allow no foreign
influence to equal our own. All over the world German commercial and
colonial push is coming into collision with other nations: witness the
affair of the Caroline Islands with Spain; the partition of New Guinea
with England; the yet more recent negotiation between these two powers
concerning their share in Africa, viewed with deep distrust and
jealousy by France; the Samoa affair; the conflict between German
control and American interests in the islands of the western Pacific;
and the alleged progress of German influence in Central and South
America. It is noteworthy that, while these various contentions are
sustained with the aggressive military spirit characteristic of the
German Empire, they are credibly said to arise from the national temper
more than from the deliberate policy of the government, which in this
matter does not lead, but follows, the feeling of the people,--a
condition much more formidable.

There is no sound reason for believing that the world has passed into a
period of assured peace outside the limits of Europe. Unsettled
political conditions, such as exist in Haiti, Central America, and many
of the Pacific islands, especially the Hawaiian group, when combined
with great military or commercial importance as is the case with most
of these positions, involve, now as always, dangerous germs of quarrel,
against which it is prudent at least to be prepared. Undoubtedly, the
general temper of nations is more averse from war than it was of old.
If no less selfish and grasping than our predecessors, we feel more
dislike to the discomforts and sufferings attendant upon a breach of
peace; but to retain that highly valued repose and the undisturbed
enjoyment of the returns of commerce, it is necessary to argue upon
somewhat equal terms of strength with an adversary. It is the
preparedness of the enemy, and not acquiescence in the existing state
of things, that now holds back the armies of Europe.

On the other hand, neither the sanctions of international law nor the
justice of a cause can be depended upon for a fair settlement of
differences, when they come into conflict with a strong political
necessity on the one side opposed to comparative weakness on the other.
In our still-pending dispute over the seal-fishing of Bering Sea,
whatever may be thought of the strength of our argument, in view of
generally admitted principles of international law, it is beyond doubt
that our contention is reasonable, just, and in the interest of the
world at large. But in the attempt to enforce it we have come into
collision not only with national susceptibilities as to the honor of
the flag, which we ourselves very strongly share, but also with a state
governed by a powerful necessity, and exceedingly strong where we are
particularly weak and exposed. Not only has Great Britain a mighty navy
and we a long defenceless seacoast, but it is a great commercial and
political advantage to her that her larger colonies, and above all
Canada, should feel that the power of the mother country is something
which they need, and upon which they can count. The dispute is between
the United States and Canada, not the United States and Great Britain;
but it has been ably used by the latter to promote the solidarity of
sympathy between herself and her colony. With the mother country alone
an equitable arrangement, conducive to well-understood mutual
interests, could be reached readily; but the purely local and
peculiarly selfish wishes of Canadian fishermen dictate the policy of
Great Britain, because Canada is the most important link uniting her to
her colonies and maritime interests in the Pacific. In case of a
European war, it is possible that the British navy will not be able to
hold open the route through the Mediterranean to the East; but having a
strong naval station at Halifax, and another at Esquimalt, on the
Pacific, the two connected by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, England
possesses an alternate line of communication far less exposed to
maritime aggression than the former, or than the third route by the
Cape of Good Hope, as well as two bases essential to the service of her
commerce, or other naval operations, in the North Atlantic and the
Pacific. Whatever arrangement of this question is finally reached, the
fruit of Lord Salisbury's attitude scarcely can fail to be a
strengthening of the sentiments of attachment to, and reliance upon,
the mother country, not only in Canada, but in the other great
colonies. These feelings of attachment and mutual dependence supply the
living spirit, without which the nascent schemes for Imperial
Federation are but dead mechanical contrivances; nor are they without
influence upon such generally unsentimental considerations as those of
buying and selling, and the course of trade.

This dispute, seemingly paltry yet really serious, sudden in its
appearance and dependent for its issue upon other considerations than
its own merits, may serve to convince us of many latent and yet
unforeseen dangers to the peace of the western hemisphere, attendant
upon the opening of a canal through the Central American Isthmus. In a
general way, it is evident enough that this canal, by modifying the
direction of trade routes, will induce a great increase of commercial
activity and carrying trade throughout the Caribbean Sea; and that this
now comparatively deserted nook of the ocean will become, like the Red
Sea, a great thoroughfare of shipping, and will attract, as never
before in our day, the interest and ambition of maritime nations. Every
position in that sea will have enhanced commercial and military value,
and the canal itself will become a strategic centre of the most vital
importance. Like the Canadian Pacific Railroad, it will be a link
between the two oceans; but, unlike it, the use, unless most carefully
guarded by treaties, will belong wholly to the belligerent which
controls the sea by its naval power. In case of war, the United States
will unquestionably command the Canadian Railroad, despite the
deterrent force of operations by the hostile navy upon our seaboard;
but no less unquestionably will she be impotent, as against any of
the great maritime powers, to control the Central American canal.
Militarily speaking, and having reference to European complications
only, the piercing of the Isthmus is nothing but a disaster to the
United States, in the present state of her military and naval
preparation. It is especially dangerous to the Pacific coast; but the
increased exposure of one part of our seaboard reacts unfavorably upon
the whole military situation.

Despite a certain great original superiority conferred by our
geographical nearness and immense resources,--due, in other words, to
our natural advantages, and not to our intelligent preparations,--the
United States is wofully unready, not only in fact but in purpose, to
assert in the Caribbean and Central America a weight of influence
proportioned to the extent of her interests. We have not the navy, and,
what is worse, we are not willing to have the navy, that will weigh
seriously in any disputes with those nations whose interests will
conflict there with our own. We have not, and we are not anxious to
provide, the defence of the seaboard which will leave the navy free for
its work at sea. We have not, but many other powers have, positions,
either within or on the borders of the Caribbean, which not only
possess great natural advantages for the control of that sea, but have
received and are receiving that artificial strength of fortification
and armament which will make them practically inexpugnable. On the
contrary, we have not on the Gulf of Mexico even the beginning of a
navy yard which could serve as the base of our operations. Let me not
be misunderstood. I am not regretting that we have not the means to
meet on terms of equality the great navies of the Old World. I
recognize, what few at least say, that, despite its great surplus
revenue, this country is poor in proportion to its length of seaboard
and its exposed points. That which I deplore, and which is a sober,
just, and reasonable cause of deep national concern, is that the nation
neither has nor cares to have its sea frontier so defended, and its
navy of such power, as shall suffice, with the advantages of our
position, to weigh seriously when inevitable discussions arise,--such
as we have recently had about Samoa and Bering Sea, and which may at
any moment come up about the Caribbean Sea or the canal. Is the United
States, for instance, prepared to allow Germany to acquire the Dutch
stronghold of Curacao, fronting the Atlantic outlet of both the
proposed canals of Panama and Nicaragua? Is she prepared to acquiesce
in any foreign power purchasing from Haiti a naval station on the
Windward Passage, through which pass our steamer routes to the Isthmus?
Would she acquiesce in a foreign protectorate over the Sandwich
Islands, that great central station of the Pacific, equidistant from
San Francisco, Samoa, and the Marquesas, and an important post on our
lines of communication with both Australia and China? Or will it be
maintained that any one of these questions, supposing it to arise, is
so exclusively one-sided, the arguments of policy and right so
exclusively with us, that the other party will at once yield his eager
wish, and gracefully withdraw? Was it so at Samoa? Is it so as regards
Bering Sea? The motto seen on so many ancient cannon, _Ultima ratio
regum_, is not without its message to republics.

It is perfectly reasonable and legitimate, in estimating our needs of
military preparation, to take into account the remoteness of the chief
naval and military nations from our shores, and the consequent
difficulty of maintaining operations at such a distance. It is equally
proper, in framing our policy, to consider the jealousies of the
European family of states, and their consequent unwillingness to incur
the enmity of a people so strong as ourselves; their dread of our
revenge in the future, as well as their inability to detach more than a
certain part of their forces to our shores without losing much of their
own weight in the councils of Europe. In truth, a careful determination
of the force that Great Britain or France could probably spare for
operations against our coasts, if the latter were suitably defended,
without weakening their European position or unduly exposing their
colonies and commerce, is the starting-point from which to calculate
the strength of our own navy. If the latter be superior to the force
that thus can be sent against it, and the coast be so defended as to
leave the navy free to strike where it will, we can maintain our
rights; not merely the rights which international law concedes, and
which the moral sense of nations now supports, but also those equally
real rights which, though not conferred by law, depend upon a clear
preponderance of interest, upon obviously necessary policy, upon
self-preservation, either total or partial. Were we so situated now in
respect of military strength, we could secure our perfectly just claim
as to the seal fisheries; not by seizing foreign ships on the open sea,
but by the evident fact that, our cities being protected from maritime
attack, our position and superior population lay open the Canadian
Pacific, as well as the frontier of the Dominion, to do with as we
please. Diplomats do not flourish such disagreeable truths in each
other's faces; they look for a _modus vivendi_, and find it.

While, therefore, the advantages of our own position in the western
hemisphere, and the disadvantages under which the operations of a
European state would labor, are undeniable and just elements in the
calculations of the statesman, it is folly to look upon them as
sufficient alone for our security. Much more needs to be cast into the
scale that it may incline in favor of our strength. They are mere
defensive factors, and partial at that. Though distant, our shores can
be reached; being defenceless, they can detain but a short time a force
sent against them. With a probability of three months' peace in Europe,
no maritime power would fear to support its demands by a number of
ships with which it would be loath indeed to part for a year.

Yet, were our sea frontier as strong as it now is weak, passive
self-defence, whether in trade or war, would be but a poor policy, so
long as this world continues to be one of struggle and vicissitude. All
around us now is strife; "the struggle of life," "the race of life,"
are phrases so familiar that we do not feel their significance till we
stop to think about them. Everywhere nation is arrayed against nation;
our own no less than others. What is our protective system but an
organized warfare? In carrying it on, it is true, we have only to use
certain procedures which all states now concede to be a legal exercise
of the national power, even though injurious to themselves. It is
lawful, they say, to do what we will with our own. Are our people,
however, so unaggressive that they are likely not to want their own way
in matters where their interests turn on points of disputed right, or
so little sensitive as to submit quietly to encroachment by others, in
quarters where they long have considered their own influence should

Our self-imposed isolation in the matter of markets, and the decline of
our shipping interest in the last thirty years, have coincided
singularly with an actual remoteness of this continent from the life of
the rest of the world. The writer has before him a map of the North and
South Atlantic oceans, showing the direction of the principal trade
routes and the proportion of tonnage passing over each; and it is
curious to note what deserted regions, comparatively, are the Gulf of
Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the adjoining countries and islands. A
broad band stretches from our northern Atlantic coast to the English
Channel; another as broad from the British Islands to the East, through
the Mediterranean and Red Sea, overflowing the borders of the latter in
order to express the volume of trade. Around either cape--Good Hope and
Horn--pass strips of about one-fourth this width, joining near the
equator, midway between Africa and South America. From the West Indies
issues a thread, indicating the present commerce of Great Britain with
a region which once, in the Napoleonic wars, embraced one-fourth of the
whole trade of the Empire. The significance is unmistakable: Europe has
now little mercantile interest in the Caribbean Sea.

When the Isthmus is pierced, this isolation will pass away, and with it
the indifference of foreign nations. From wheresoever they come and
whithersoever they afterward go, all ships that use the canal will pass
through the Caribbean. Whatever the effect produced upon the prosperity
of the adjacent continent and islands by the thousand wants attendant
upon maritime activity, around such a focus of trade will centre large
commercial and political interests. To protect and develop its own,
each nation will seek points of support and means of influence in a
quarter where the United States always has been jealously sensitive to
the intrusion of European powers. The precise value of the Monroe
doctrine is understood very loosely by most Americans, but the effect
of the familiar phrase has been to develop a national sensitiveness,
which is a more frequent cause of war than material interests; and over
disputes caused by such feelings there will preside none of the calming
influence due to the moral authority of international law, with its
recognized principles, for the points in dispute will be of policy, of
interest, not of conceded right. Already France and Great Britain are
giving to ports held by them a degree of artificial strength uncalled
for by their present importance. They look to the near future. Among
the islands and on the mainland there are many positions of great
importance, held now by weak or unstable states. Is the United States
willing to see them sold to a powerful rival? But what right will she
invoke against the transfer? She can allege but one,--that of her
reasonable policy supported by her might.

Whether they will or no, Americans must now begin to look outward. The
growing production of the country demands it. An increasing volume of
public sentiment demands it. The position of the United States, between
the two Old Worlds and the two great oceans, makes the same claim,
which will soon be strengthened by the creation of the new link joining
the Atlantic and Pacific. The tendency will be maintained and increased
by the growth of the European colonies in the Pacific, by the advancing
civilization of Japan, and by the rapid peopling of our Pacific States
with men who have all the aggressive spirit of the advanced line of
national progress. Nowhere does a vigorous foreign policy find more
favor than among the people west of the Rocky Mountains.

It has been said that, in our present state of unpreparedness, a
trans-isthmian canal will be a military disaster to the United States,
and especially to the Pacific coast. When the canal is finished, the
Atlantic seaboard will be neither more nor less exposed than it now is;
it will merely share with the country at large the increased danger of
foreign complications with inadequate means to meet them. The danger of
the Pacific coast will be greater by so much as the way between it and
Europe is shortened through a passage which the stronger maritime power
can control. The danger will lie not merely in the greater facility for
despatching a hostile squadron from Europe, but also in the fact that a
more powerful fleet than formerly can be maintained on that coast by a
European power, because it can be called home so much more promptly in
case of need. The greatest weakness of the Pacific ports, however, if
wisely met by our government, will go far to insure our naval
superiority there. The two chief centres, San Francisco and Puget
Sound, owing to the width and the great depth of the entrances, cannot
be effectively protected by torpedoes; and consequently, as fleets can
always pass batteries through an unobstructed channel, they cannot
obtain perfect security by means of fortifications only. Valuable as
such works will be to them, they must be further garrisoned by
coast-defence ships, whose part in repelling an enemy will be
co-ordinated with that of the batteries. The sphere of action of such
ships should not be permitted to extend far beyond the port to which
they are allotted, and of whose defence they form an essential part;
but within that sweep they will always be a powerful reinforcement to
the sea-going navy, when the strategic conditions of a war cause
hostilities to centre around their port. By sacrificing power to go
long distances, the coast-defence ship gains proportionate weight of
armor and guns; that is, of defensive and offensive strength. It
therefore adds an element of unique value to the fleet with which it
for a time acts. No foreign states, except Great Britain, have ports so
near our Pacific coast as to bring it within the radius of action of
their coast-defence ships; and it is very doubtful whether even Great
Britain will put such ships at Vancouver Island, the chief value of
which will be lost to her when the Canadian Pacific is severed,--a blow
always in the power of this country. It is upon our Atlantic seaboard
that the mistress of Halifax, of Bermuda, and of Jamaica will now
defend Vancouver and the Canadian Pacific. In the present state of our
seaboard defence she can do so absolutely. What is all Canada compared
with our exposed great cities? Even were the coast fortified, she still
could do so, if our navy be no stronger than is designed as yet. What
harm can we do Canada proportionate to the injury we should suffer by
the interruption of our coasting trade, and by a blockade of Boston,
New York, the Delaware, and the Chesapeake? Such a blockade Great
Britain certainly could make technically efficient, under the somewhat
loose definitions of international law. Neutrals would accept it as

The military needs of the Pacific States, as well as their supreme
importance to the whole country, are yet a matter of the future, but of
a future so near that provision should begin immediately. To weigh
their importance, consider what influence in the Pacific would be
attributed to a nation comprising only the States of Washington,
Oregon, and California, when filled with such men as now people them
and still are pouring in, and which controlled such maritime centres as
San Francisco, Puget Sound, and the Columbia River. Can it be counted
less because they are bound by the ties of blood and close political
union to the great communities of the East? But such influence, to work
without jar and friction, requires underlying military readiness, like
the proverbial iron hand under the velvet glove. To provide this, three
things are needful: First, protection of the chief harbors, by
fortifications and coast-defence ships, which gives defensive strength,
provides security to the community within, and supplies the bases
necessary to all military operations. Secondly, naval force, the arm of
offensive power, which alone enables a country to extend its influence
outward. Thirdly, it should be an inviolable resolution of our national
policy, that no foreign state should henceforth acquire a coaling
position within three thousand miles of San Francisco,--a distance
which includes the Hawaiian and Galapagos islands and the coast of
Central America. For fuel is the life of modern naval war; it is the
food of the ship; without it the modern monsters of the deep die of
inanition. Around it, therefore, cluster some of the most important
considerations of naval strategy. In the Caribbean and in the Atlantic
we are confronted with many a foreign coal depot, bidding us stand to
our arms, even as Carthage bade Rome; but let us not acquiesce in an
addition to our dangers, a further diversion of our strength, by being
forestalled in the North Pacific.

In conclusion, while Great Britain is undoubtedly the most formidable
of our possible enemies, both by her great navy and by the strong
positions she holds near our coasts, it must be added that a cordial
understanding with that country is one of the first of our external
interests. Both nations doubtless, and properly, seek their own
advantage; but both, also, are controlled by a sense of law and
justice, drawn from the same sources, and deep-rooted in their
instincts. Whatever temporary aberration may occur, a return to mutual
standards of right will certainly follow. Formal alliance between the
two is out of the question, but a cordial recognition of the similarity
of character and ideas will give birth to sympathy, which in turn will
facilitate a co-operation beneficial to both; for if sentimentality is
weak, sentiment is strong.

[Illustration: THE PACIFIC OCEAN]


    [The origin of the ensuing article was as follows: At the time of
    the Revolution in Hawaii, at the beginning of 1893, the author
    addressed to the "New York Times" a letter, which appeared in the
    issue of January 31. This, falling under the eye of the Editor of
    the "Forum," suggested to him to ask an article upon the general
    military--or naval--value of the Hawaiian group. The letter
    alluded to ran thus:--

    _To the Editor of the "New York Times"_:--

    There is one aspect of the recent revolution in Hawaii which seems
    to have been kept out of sight, and that is the relation of the
    islands, not merely to our own and to European countries, but to
    China. How vitally important that may become in the future is
    evident from the great number of Chinese, relatively to the whole
    population, now settled in the islands.

    It is a question for the whole civilized world and not for the
    United States only, whether the Sandwich Islands, with their
    geographical and military importance, unrivalled by that of any
    other position in the North Pacific, shall in the future be an
    outpost of European civilization, or of the comparative barbarism
    of China. It is sufficiently known, but not, perhaps, generally
    noted in our country, that many military men abroad, familiar with
    Eastern conditions and character, look with apprehension toward
    the day when the vast mass of China--now inert--may yield to one
    of those impulses which have in past ages buried civilization
    under a wave of barbaric invasion. The great armies of Europe,
    whose existence is so frequently deplored, may be providentially
    intended as a barrier to that great movement, if it come.
    Certainly, while China remains as she is, nothing more disastrous
    for the future of the world can be imagined than that general
    disarmament of Europe which is the Utopian dream of some

    China, however, may burst her barriers eastward as well as
    westward, toward the Pacific as well as toward the European
    Continent. In such a movement it would be impossible to exaggerate
    the momentous issues dependent upon a firm hold of the Sandwich
    Islands by a great, civilized, maritime power. By its nearness to
    the scene, and by the determined animosity to the Chinese movement
    which close contact seems to inspire, our own country, with its
    Pacific coast, is naturally indicated as the proper guardian for
    this most important position. To hold it, however, whether in the
    supposed case or in war with a European state, implies a great
    extension of our naval power. Are we ready to undertake this?

    A.T. MAHAN, _Captain, United States Navy_.

    NEW YORK, Jan. 30, 1893.]

The suddenness--so far, at least, as the general public is
concerned--with which the long-existing troubles in Hawaii have come to
a head, and the character of the advances reported to be addressed to
the United States by the revolutionary government, formally recognized
as _de facto_ by our representative on the spot, add another to the
many significant instances furnished by history, that, as men in the
midst of life are in death, so nations in the midst of peace find
themselves confronted with unexpected causes of dissension, conflicts
of interests, whose results may be, on the one hand, war, or, on the
other, abandonment of clear and imperative national advantage in order
to avoid an issue for which preparation has not been made. By no
premeditated contrivance of our own, by the cooperation of a series of
events which, however dependent step by step upon human action, were
not intended to prepare the present crisis, the United States finds
herself compelled to answer a question--to make a decision--not unlike
and not less momentous than that required of the Roman senate, when the
Mamertine garrison invited it to occupy Messina, and so to abandon the
hitherto traditional policy which had confined the expansion of Rome to
the Italian peninsula. For let it not be overlooked that, whether we
wish or no, we _must_ answer the question, we _must_ make the decision.
The issue cannot be dodged. Absolute inaction in such a case is a
decision as truly as the most vehement action. We can now advance, but,
the conditions of the world being what they are, if we do not advance
we recede; for there is involved not so much a particular action as a
question of principle, pregnant of great consequences in one direction
or in the other.

Occasion of serious difficulty, indeed, should not arise here. Unlike
the historical instance just cited, the two nations whose interests
have come now into contact--Great Britain and the United States--are
so alike in inherited traditions, habits of thought, and views of
right, that injury to the one need not be anticipated from the
predominance of the other in a quarter where its interests also
predominate. Despite the heterogeneous character of the immigration
which the past few years have been pouring into our country, our
political traditions and racial characteristics still continue
English--Mr. Douglas Campbell would say Dutch, but even so the stock
is the same. Though thus somewhat gorged with food not wholly to its
taste, our political digestion has contrived so far to master the
incongruous mass of materials it has been unable to reject; and if
assimilation has been at times imperfect, our political constitution
and spirit remain English in essential features. Imbued with like
ideals of liberty, of law, of right, certainly not less progressive
than our kin beyond sea, we are, in the safeguards deliberately placed
around our fundamental law, even more conservative than they. That
which we received of the true spirit of freedom we have kept--liberty
and law--not the one or the other, but both. In that spirit we not
only have occupied our original inheritance, but also, step by step,
as Rome incorporated the other nations of the peninsula, we have added
to it, spreading and perpetuating everywhere the same foundation
principles of free and good government which, to her honor be it said,
Great Britain also has maintained throughout her course. And now,
arrested on the south by the rights of a race wholly alien to us, and
on the north by a body of states of like traditions to our own, whose
freedom to choose their own affiliations we respect, we have come to
the sea. In our infancy we bordered upon the Atlantic only; our youth
carried our boundary to the Gulf of Mexico; to-day maturity sees us
upon the Pacific. Have we no right or no call to progress farther in
any direction? Are there for us beyond the sea horizon none of those
essential interests, of those evident dangers, which impose a policy
and confer rights?

This is the question that long has been looming upon the brow of a
future now rapidly passing into the present. Of it the Hawaiian
incident is a part--intrinsically, perhaps, a small part--but in its
relations to the whole so vital that, as has been said before, a wrong
decision does not stand by itself, but involves, not only in principle
but in fact, recession along the whole line. In our natural, necessary,
irrepressible expansion, we are come here into contact with the
progress of another great people, the law of whose being has impressed
upon it a principle of growth which has wrought mightily in the past,
and in the present is visible by recurring manifestations. Of this
working, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, Aden, India, in geographical
succession though not in strict order of time, show a completed chain;
forged link by link, by open force or politic bargain, but always
resulting from the steady pressure of a national instinct, so powerful
and so accurate that statesmen of every school, willing or unwilling,
have found themselves carried along by a tendency which no
individuality can resist or greatly modify. Both unsubstantial rumor
and incautious personal utterance have suggested an impatient desire
in Mr. Gladstone to be rid of the occupation of Egypt; but scarcely
has his long exclusion from office ended when the irony of events
signalizes his return thereto by an increase in the force of
occupation. Further, it may be noted profitably of the chain just
cited, that the two extremities were first possessed--first India,
then Gibraltar, far later Malta, Aden, Cyprus, Egypt--and that, with
scarce an exception, each step has been taken despite the jealous
vexation of a rival. Spain has never ceased angrily to bewail
Gibraltar. "I had rather see the English on the heights of
Montmartre," said the first Napoleon, "than in Malta." The feelings of
France about Egypt are matter of common knowledge, not even
dissembled; and, for our warning be it added, her annoyance is
increased by the bitter sense of opportunity rejected.

It is needless here to do more than refer to that other chain of
maritime possessions--Halifax, Bermuda, Santa Lucia, Jamaica--which
strengthen the British hold upon the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the
Isthmus of Panama. In the Pacific the position is for them much less
satisfactory--nowhere, perhaps, is it less so, and from obvious natural
causes. The commercial development of the eastern Pacific has been far
later, and still is less complete, than that of its western shores. The
latter when first opened to European adventure were already the seat of
ancient economies in China and Japan, furnishing abundance of curious
and luxurious products to tempt the trader by good hopes of profit. The
western coast of America, for the most part peopled by savages, offered
little save the gold and silver of Mexico and Peru, and these were
monopolized jealously by the Spaniards--not a commercial nation--during
their long ascendency. Being so very far from England and affording so
little material for trade, Pacific America did not draw the enterprise
of a country the chief and honorable inducement of whose seamen was the
hope of gain, in pursuit of which they settled and annexed point after
point in the regions where they penetrated, and upon the routes leading
thither. The western coasts of North America, being reached only by the
long and perilous voyage around Cape Horn, or by a more toilsome and
dangerous passage across the continent, remained among the last of the
temperate productive seaboards of the earth to be possessed by white
men. The United States were already a nation, in fact as well as in
form, when Vancouver was exploring Puget Sound and passed first through
the channel separating the mainland of British America from the island
which now bears his name. Thus it has happened that, from the late
development of British Columbia in the northeastern Pacific, and of
Australia and New Zealand in the southwestern, Great Britain is found
again holding the two extremities of a line, between which she must
inevitably desire the intermediate links; nor is there any good reason
why she should not have them, except the superior, more urgent, more
vital necessities of another people--our own. Of these links the
Hawaiian group possesses unique importance--not from its intrinsic
commercial value, but from its favorable position for maritime and
military control.

The military or strategic value of a naval position depends upon its
situation, upon its strength, and upon its resources. Of the three, the
first is of most consequence, because it results from the nature of
things; whereas the two latter, when deficient, can be supplied
artificially, in whole or in part. Fortifications remedy the weaknesses
of a position, foresight accumulates beforehand the resources which
nature does not yield on the spot; but it is not within the power of
man to change the geographical situation of a point which lies outside
the limit of strategic effect. It is instructive, and yet apparent to
the most superficial reading, to notice how the first Napoleon, in
commenting upon a region likely to be the scene of war, begins by
considering the most conspicuous natural features, and then enumerates
the commanding positions, their distances from each other, the relative
directions, or, as the sea phrase is, their "bearings," and the
particular facilities each offers for operations of war. This furnishes
the ground plan, the skeleton, detached from confusing secondary
considerations, and from which a clear estimate of the decisive points
can be made. The number of such points varies greatly, according to the
character of the region. In a mountainous, broken country they may be
very many; whereas in a plain devoid of natural obstacles there may be
few, or none save those created by man. If few, the value of each is
necessarily greater than if many; and if there be but one, its
importance is not only unique, but extreme,--measured only by the size
of the field over which its unshared influence extends.

The sea, until it approaches the land, realizes the ideal of a vast
plain unbroken by obstacles. On the sea, says an eminent French
tactician, there is no field of battle, meaning that there is none of
the natural conditions which determine, and often fetter, the movements
of the general. But upon a plain, however flat and monotonous, causes,
possibly slight, determine the concentration of population into towns
and villages, and the necessary communications between the centres
create roads. Where the latter converge, or cross, tenure confers
command, depending for importance upon the number of routes thus
meeting, and upon their individual value. It is just so at sea. While
in itself the ocean opposes no obstacle to a vessel taking any one of
the numerous routes that can be traced upon the surface of the globe
between two points, conditions of distance or convenience, of traffic
or of wind, do prescribe certain usual courses. Where these pass near
an ocean position, still more where they use it, it has an influence
over them, and where several routes cross near by that influence
becomes very great,--is commanding.

Let us now apply these considerations to the Hawaiian group. To any one
viewing a map that shows the full extent of the Pacific Ocean, with its
shores on either side, two striking circumstances will be apparent
immediately. He will see at a glance that the Sandwich Islands stand by
themselves, in a state of comparative isolation, amid a vast expanse of
sea; and, again, that they form the centre of a large circle whose
radius is approximately--and very closely--the distance from Honolulu
to San Francisco. The circumference of this circle, if the trouble is
taken to describe it with compass upon the map, will be seen, on the
west and south, to pass through the outer fringe of the system of
archipelagoes which, from Australia and New Zealand, extend to the
northeast toward the American continent. Within the circle a few
scattered islets, bare and unimportant, seem only to emphasize the
failure of nature to bridge the interval separating Hawaii from her
peers of the Southern Pacific. Of these, however, it may be noted that
some, like Fanning and Christmas Islands, have within a few years been
taken into British possession. The distance from San Francisco to
Honolulu, twenty-one hundred miles--easy steaming distance--is
substantially the same as that from Honolulu to the Gilbert, Marshall,
Samoan, Society, and Marquesas groups, all under European control,
except Samoa, in which we have a part influence.

To have a central position such as this, and to be alone, having no
rival and admitting no alternative throughout an extensive tract, are
conditions that at once fix the attention of the strategist,--it may be
added, of the statesmen of commerce likewise. But to this striking
combination are to be added the remarkable relations, borne by these
singularly placed islands, to the greater commercial routes traversing
this vast expanse known to us as the Pacific,--not only, however, to
those now actually in use, important as they are, but also to those
that must be called into being necessarily by that future to which the
Hawaiian incident compels our too unwilling attention. Circumstances,
as already remarked, create centres, between which communication
necessarily follows; and in the vista of the future all discern,
however dimly, a new and great centre that must largely modify existing
sea routes, as well as bring new ones into existence. Whether the canal
of the Central American isthmus be eventually at Panama or at Nicaragua
matters little to the question now in hand, although, in common with
most Americans who have thought upon the subject, I believe it surely
will be at the latter point. Whichever it be, the convergence there of
so many ships from the Atlantic and the Pacific will constitute a
centre of commerce, interoceanic, and inferior to few, if to any, in
the world; one whose approaches will be watched jealously, and whose
relations to the other centres of the Pacific by the lines joining it
to them must be examined carefully. Such study of the commercial routes
and of their relations to the Hawaiian Islands, taken together with the
other strategic considerations previously set forth, completes the
synopsis of facts which determine the value of the group for conferring
either commercial or naval control.

Referring again to the map, it will be seen that while the shortest
routes from the Isthmus to Australia and New Zealand, as well as those
to South America, go well clear of any probable connection with or
interference from Hawaii, those directed toward China and Japan pass
either through the group or in close proximity to it. Vessels from
Central America bound to the ports of North America come, of course,
within the influence of our own coast. These circumstances, and the
existing recognized distribution of political power in the Pacific,
point naturally to an international acquiescence in certain defined
spheres of influence, for our own country and for others, such as has
been reached already between Great Britain, Germany, and Holland in the
Southwestern Pacific, to avoid conflict there between their respective
claims. Though artificial in form, such a recognition, in the case here
suggested, would depend upon perfectly natural as well as indisputable
conditions. The United States is by far the greatest, in numbers,
interests, and power, of the communities bordering upon the eastern
shores of the North Pacific; and the relations of the Hawaiian Islands
to her naturally would be, and actually are, more numerous and more
important than they can be to any other state. This is true, although,
unfortunately for the equally natural wishes of Great Britain and her
colonies, the direct routes from British Columbia to Eastern Australia
and New Zealand, which depend upon no building of a future canal, pass
as near the islands as those already mentioned. Such a fact, that this
additional great highway runs close to the group, both augments and
emphasizes their strategic importance; but it does not affect the
statement just made, that the interest of the United States in them
surpasses that of Great Britain, and dependent upon a natural cause,
nearness, which has been admitted always as a reasonable ground for
national self-assertion. It is unfortunate, doubtless, for the wishes
of British Columbia, and for the communications, commercial and
military, depending upon the Canadian Pacific Railway, that the United
States lies between them and the South Pacific, and is the state
nearest to Hawaii; but, the fact being so, the interests of our
sixty-five million people, in a position so vital to our part in the
Pacific, must be allowed to outweigh those of the six millions of

From the foregoing considerations may be inferred the importance of the
Hawaiian Islands as a position powerfully influencing the commercial
and military control of the Pacific, and especially of the Northern
Pacific, in which the United States, geographically, has the strongest
right to assert herself. These are the main advantages, which can be
termed positive: those, namely, which directly advance commercial
security and naval control. To the negative advantages of possession,
by removing conditions which, if the islands were in the hands of any
other power, would constitute to us disadvantages and threats, allusion
only will be made. The serious menace to our Pacific coast and our
Pacific trade, if so important a position were held by a possible
enemy, has been mentioned frequently in the press, and dwelt upon in
the diplomatic papers which from time to time are given to the public.
It may be assumed that it is generally acknowledged. Upon one
particular, however, too much stress cannot be laid, one to which naval
officers cannot but be more sensitive than the general public, and that
is the immense disadvantage to us of any maritime enemy having a
coaling-station well within twenty-five hundred miles, as this is, of
every point of our coast-line from Puget Sound to Mexico. Were there
many others available, we might find it difficult to exclude from all.
There is, however, but the one. Shut out from the Sandwich Islands as a
coal base, an enemy is thrown back for supplies of fuel to distances of
thirty-five hundred or four thousand miles,--or between seven thousand
and eight thousand, going and coming,--an impediment to sustained
maritime operations well-nigh prohibitive. The coal-mines of British
Columbia constitute, of course, a qualification to this statement; but
upon them, if need arose, we might hope at least to impose some
trammels by action from the land side. It is rarely that so important a
factor in the attack or defence of a coast-line--of a sea frontier--is
concentrated in a single position; and the circumstance renders doubly
imperative upon us to secure it, if we righteously can.

It is to be hoped, also, that the opportunity thus thrust upon us may
not be viewed narrowly, as though it concerned but one section of our
country or one portion of its external trade or influence. This is no
mere question of a particular act, for which, possibly, just occasion
may not have offered yet; but of a principle, a policy, fruitful of
many future acts, to enter upon which, in the fulness of our national
progress, the time now has arrived. The principle being accepted, to be
conditioned only by a just and candid regard for the rights and
reasonable susceptibilities of other nations,--none of which is
contravened by the step here immediately under discussion,--the
annexation, even, of Hawaii would be no mere sporadic effort,
irrational because disconnected from an adequate motive, but a
first-fruit and a token that the nation in its evolution has aroused
itself to the necessity of carrying its life--that has been the
happiness of those under its influence--beyond the borders which
heretofore have sufficed for its activities. That the vaunted blessings
of our economy are not to be forced upon the unwilling may be conceded;
but the concession does not deny the right nor the wisdom of gathering
in those who wish to come. Comparative religion teaches that creeds
which reject missionary enterprise are foredoomed to decay. May it not
be so with nations? Certainly the glorious record of England is
consequent mainly upon the spirit, and traceable to the time, when she
launched out into the deep--without formulated policy, it is true, or
foreseeing the future to which her star was leading, but obeying the
instinct which in the infancy of nations anticipates the more reasoned
impulses of experience. Let us, too, learn from her experience. Not all
at once did England become the great sea power which she is, but step
by step, as opportunity offered, she has moved on to the world-wide
pre-eminence now held by English speech, and by institutions sprung
from English germs. How much poorer would the world have been, had
Englishmen heeded the cautious hesitancy that now bids us reject every
advance beyond our shore-lines! And can any one doubt that a cordial,
if unformulated, understanding between the two chief states of English
tradition, to spread freely, without mutual jealousy and in mutual
support, would increase greatly the world's sum of happiness?

But if a plea of the world's welfare seem suspiciously like a cloak for
national self-interest, let the latter be accepted frankly as the
adequate motive which it assuredly is. Let us not shrink from pitting a
broad self-interest against the narrow self-interest to which some
would restrict us. The demands of our three great seaboards, the
Atlantic, the Gulf, and the Pacific,--each for itself, and all for the
strength that comes from drawing closer the ties between them,--are
calling for the extension, through the Isthmian Canal, of that broad
sea common along which, and along which alone, in all the ages
prosperity has moved. Land carriage, always restricted and therefore
always slow, toils enviously but hopelessly behind, vainly seeking to
replace and supplant the royal highway of nature's own making.
Corporate interests, vigorous in that power of concentration which is
the strength of armies and of minorities, may here withstand for a
while the ill-organized strivings of the multitude, only dimly
conscious of its wants; yet the latter, however temporarily opposed and
baffled, is sure at last, like the blind forces of nature, to overwhelm
all that stand in the way of its necessary progress. So the Isthmian
Canal is an inevitable part in the future of the United States; yet one
that cannot be separated from other necessary incidents of a policy
dependent upon it, whose details cannot be foreseen exactly. But
because the precise steps that hereafter may be opportune or necessary
cannot yet be foretold certainly, is not a reason the less, but a
reason the more, for establishing a principle of action which may serve
to guide as opportunities arise. Let us start from the fundamental
truth, warranted by history, that the control of the seas, and
especially along the great lines drawn by national interest or national
commerce, is the chief among the merely material elements in the power
and prosperity of nations. It is so because the sea is the world's
great medium of circulation. From this necessarily follows the
principle that, as subsidiary to such control, it is imperative to take
possession, when it can be done righteously, of such maritime positions
as contribute to secure command. If this principle be adopted, there
will be no hesitation about taking the positions--and they are
many--upon the approaches to the Isthmus, whose interests incline them
to seek us. It has its application also to the present case of Hawaii.

There is, however, one caution to be given from the military point of
view, beyond the need of which the world has not yet passed. Military
positions, fortified posts, by land or by sea, however strong or
admirably situated, do not confer control by themselves alone. People
often say that such an island or harbor will give control of such a
body of water. It is an utter, deplorable, ruinous mistake. The phrase
indeed may be used by some only loosely, without forgetting other
implied conditions of adequate protection and adequate navies; but the
confidence of our own nation in its native strength, and its
indifference to the defence of its ports and the sufficiency of its
fleet, give reason to fear that the full consequences of a forward step
may not be weighed soberly. Napoleon, who knew better, once talked this
way. "The islands of San Pietro, Corfu, and Malta," he wrote, "will
make us masters of the whole Mediterranean." Vain boast! Within one
year Corfu, in two years Malta, were rent away from the state that
could not support them by its ships. Nay, more: had Bonaparte not taken
the latter stronghold out of the hands of its degenerate but innocuous
government, that citadel of the Mediterranean would perhaps--would
probably--never have passed into those of his chief enemy. There is
here also a lesson for us.

It is by no means logical to leap, from this recognition of the
necessity of adequate naval force to secure outlying dependencies, to
the conclusion that the United States would need for that object a navy
equal to the largest now existing. A nation as far removed as is our
own from the bases of foreign naval strength may reasonably reckon upon
the qualification that distance--not to speak of the complex European
interests close at hand--impresses upon the exertion of naval strength
by European powers. The mistake is when our remoteness, unsupported by
carefully calculated force, is regarded as an armor of proof, under
cover of which any amount of swagger may be indulged safely. An
estimate of what is an adequate naval force for our country may
properly take into account the happy interval which separates both our
present territory and our future aspirations from the centres of
interest really vital to European states. If to these safeguards be
added, on our part, a sober recognition of what our reasonable sphere
of influence is, and a candid justice in dealing with foreign interests
within that sphere, there will be little disposition to question our
preponderance therein.

Among all foreign states, it is especially to be hoped that each
passing year may render more cordial the relations between ourselves
and the great nation from whose loins we sprang. The radical identity
of spirit which underlies our superficial differences of polity surely
will draw us closer together, if we do not set our faces wilfully
against a tendency which would give our race the predominance over the
seas of the world. To force such a consummation is impossible, and if
possible would not be wise; but surely it would be a lofty aim, fraught
with immeasurable benefits, to desire it, and to raise no needless
impediments by advocating perfectly proper acts, demanded by our
evident interests, in offensive or arrogant terms.


_June, 1898._

For more than four hundred years the mind of man has been possessed
with a great idea, which, although by its wide diffusion and prophetic
nature resembling one of those fundamental instincts, whose very
existence points to a necessary fulfilment, first quickened into life
in the thought of Christopher Columbus. To him the vision, dimly seen
through the scanty and inaccurate knowledge of his age, imaged a close
and facile communication, by means of the sea, that great bond of
nations, between two ancient and diverse civilizations, which centred,
the one around the Mediterranean, the birthplace of European commerce,
refinement, and culture, the other upon the shores of that distant
Eastern Ocean which lapped the dominions of the Great Khan, and held
upon its breast the rich island of Zipangu. Hitherto an envious waste
of land, entailing years of toilsome and hazardous journey, had barred
them asunder. A rare traveller now and again might penetrate from one
to the other, but it was impossible to maintain by land the constant
exchange of influence and benefit which, though on a contracted scale,
had constituted the advantage and promoted the development of the
Mediterranean peoples. The microcosm of the land-girt sea typified
then that future greater family of nations, which one by one have been
bound since into a common tie of interest by the broad enfolding
ocean, that severs only to knit them more closely together. So with a
seer's eye, albeit as in a glass darkly; saw Columbus, and was
persuaded, and embraced the assurance. As the bold adventurer, walking
by faith and not by sight, launched his tiny squadron upon its voyage,
making the first step in the great progress which was to be, and still
is not completed, he little dreamed that the mere incident of
stumbling upon an unknown region that lay across his route should be
with posterity his chief title to fame, obscuring the true glory of
his grand conception, as well as delaying its fulfilment to a far
distant future.

    [1] The Map of the Gulf and Caribbean, p. 31, will serve
    for geographical references of this article.

The story of his actual achievement is sufficiently known to all
readers, and need not be repeated here. Amid the many disappointments
and humiliations which succeeded the brief triumphant blaze of his
first return, and clouded the latter years of his life, Columbus was
spared the pang of realizing that the problem was insoluble for the
time. Like many a prophet before him, he knew not what, nor what
manner of time, the spirit that was in him foretold, and died the
happier for his ignorance. The certainty that a wilderness, peopled by
savages and semi-barbarians, had been added to the known world, would
have been a poor awakening from the golden dreams of beneficent glory
as well as of profit which so long had beckoned him on. That the
western land he had discovered interposed a barrier to the further
progress of ships towards his longed-for goal, as inexorable as the
mountain ranges and vast steppes of Asia, was mercifully concealed
from his eyes; and the elusive "secret of the strait" through which he
to the last hoped to pass, though tantalizing in its constant evasion,
kept in tension the springs of hope and moral energy which might have
succumbed under the knowledge of the truth.

It fell to the great discoverer, in his last voyage, to approach the
continent, and to examine its shores along the region where the true
secret of the strait lay hidden,--where, if ever, it shall pass from a
dream to a reality, by the hand of man. In the autumn of 1502, after
many trials and misadventures, Columbus, having skirted the south side
of Cuba, reached the north coast of Honduras. There was little reason,
except in his own unaccountable conviction, for continuing thence in
one direction rather than in the other; but by some process of thought
he had convinced himself that the sought-for strait lay to the south
rather than to the north. He therefore turned to the eastward, though
the wind was contrary, and, after a hard buffet against it, doubled
Cape Gracias a Dios, which still retains its expressive name,
significant of his relief at finding that the trend of the beach at
last permitted him to follow his desired course with a fair wind.
During the next two months he searched the entire coast-line as far as
Porto Bello, discovering and examining several openings in the land
which since have been of historical importance, among others the mouth
of the San Juan River and the Chiriqui Lagoon, one of whose principal
divisions still recalls his visit in its name, Almirante Bay, the Bay
of the Admiral. A little beyond, to the eastward of Porto Bello, he
came to a point already known to the Spaniards, having been reached
from Trinidad. The explorer thus acquired the certainty that, from the
latter island to Yucatan, there was no break in the obdurate shore
which barred his access to Asia.

Every possible site for an interoceanic canal lies within the strip of
land thus visited by Columbus shortly before his death in 1504. How
narrow the insurmountable obstacle, and how tantalizing, in the
apparent facilities for piercing it extended by the formation of the
land, were not known until ten years later, when Balboa, led on by the
reports of the natives, reached the eminence whence he, first among
Europeans, saw the South Sea,--a name long and vaguely applied to the
Pacific, because of the direction in which it lay from its discoverer.
During these early years the history of the region we now know as
Central America was one of constant strife among the various Spanish
leaders, encouraged rather than stifled by the jealous home
government; but it was also one of unbroken and venturesome
exploration, a healthier manifestation of the same restless and daring
energy that provoked their internal collisions. In January, 1522, one
Gil Gonzalez started from Panama northward on the Pacific side, with a
few frail barks, and in March discovered Lake Nicaragua, which has its
name from the cacique, Nicaragua, or Nicarao, whose town stood upon
its shores. Five years later, another adventurer took his vessel to
pieces on the coast, transported it thus to the lake, and made the
circuit of the latter; discovering its outlet, the San Juan, just a
quarter of a century after Columbus had visited the mouth of the

The conquest of Peru, and the gradual extension of Spanish domination
and settlements in Central America and along the shores of the
Pacific, soon bestowed upon the Isthmus an importance, vividly
suggestive of its rise into political prominence consequent upon the
acquisition of California by the United States, and upon the spread of
the latter along the Pacific coast. The length and severity of the
voyage round Cape Horn, then as now, impelled men to desire some
shorter and less arduous route; and, inconvenient as the land
transport with its repeated lading and unlading was, it presented
before the days of steam the better alternative, as to some extent it
still does. So the Isthmus and its adjoining regions became a great
centre of commerce, a point where many highways converged and whence
they parted; where the East and the West met in intercourse, sometimes
friendly, more often hostile. Thus was realized partially, though most
incompletely, the vision of Columbus; and thus, after many
fluctuations, and despite the immense expansion of these latter days,
partial and incomplete his great conception yet remains. The secret of
the strait is still the problem and the reproach of mankind.

By whatever causes produced, where such a centre of commerce exists,
there always will be found a point of general interest to mankind,--to
all, at least, of those peoples who, whether directly commercial or
not, share in the wide-spreading benefits and inconveniences arising
from the fluctuations of trade. But enterprising commercial countries
are not content to be mere passive recipients of these diverse
influences. By the very characteristics which make them what they are,
they are led perforce to desire, and to aim at, control of these
decisive regions; for their tenure, like the key of a military
position, exerts a vital effect upon the course of trade, and so upon
the struggle, not only for bare existence, but for that increase of
wealth, of prosperity, and of general consideration, which affect both
the happiness and the dignity of nations. Consequently, in every age,
according to its particular temperament and circumstances, there will
be found manifested this desire for control; sometimes latent in an
attitude of simple watchfulness; sometimes starting into vivid action
under the impulse of national jealousies, and issuing in diplomatic
rivalries or hostile encounter.

Such, accordingly, has been the history of the Central American
Isthmus since the time when it became recognized as the natural
centre, towards which, if not thwarted by adverse influences, the
current of intercourse between East and West inevitably must tend.
Here the direction of least resistance was indicated clearly by
nature; and a concurrence of circumstances, partly inherent in the
general character of the region, partly adventitious or accidental,
contributed at an early date, and until very recently, to emphasize
and enlarge the importance consequent upon the geographical situation
and physical conformation of this narrow barrier between two great
seas. For centuries the West India Islands, circling the Caribbean,
and guarding the exterior approaches to the Isthmus, continued to be
the greatest single source of tropical products which had become
increasingly necessary to the civilized nations of Europe. In them,
and in that portion of the continent which extended on either side of
the Isthmus, known under the vague appellation of the Spanish Main,
Great Britain, during her desperate strife with the first Napoleon,--a
strife for very existence,--found the chief support of the commercial
strength and credit that alone carried her to the triumphant end. The
Isthmus and the Caribbean were vital elements in determining the issue
of that stern conflict. For centuries, also, the treasures of Mexico
and Peru, upon which depended the vigorous action of the great though
decadent military kingdom of Spain, flowed towards and accumulated
around the Isthmus, where they were reinforced by the tribute of the
Philippine Islands, and whence they took their way in the lumbering
galleons for the ports of the Peninsula. Where factors of such
decisive influence in European politics were at stake, it was
inevitable that the rival nations, in peace as well as in open war,
should carry their ambitions to the scene; and the unceasing struggle
for the mastery would fluctuate with the control of the waters, which,
as in all maritime regions, must depend mainly upon naval
preponderance, but also in part upon possession of those determining
positions, of whose tenure Napoleon said that "war is a business of
positions." Among these the Isthmus was chief.

The wild enterprises and bloody cruelties of the early buccaneers were
therefore not merely a brutal exhibition of unpitying greed,
indicative of the scum of nations as yet barely emerging from
barbarism. They were this, doubtless, but they were something more. In
the march of events, these early marauders played the same part, in
relation to what was to succeed them, as the rude, unscrupulous,
lawless adventurers who now precede the ruthless march of civilized
man, who swarm over the border, occupy the outposts, and by their
excesses stain the fair fame of the race whose pioneers they are. But,
while thus libels upon and reproaches to the main body, they
nevertheless belong to it, share its essential character, and foretell
its inevitable course. Like driftwood swept forward on the crest of a
torrent, they betoken the approaching flood. So with the celebrated
freebooters of the Spanish Main. Of the same general type,--though
varying greatly in individual characteristics, in breadth of view, and
even in elevation of purpose,--their piratical careers not only
evidenced the local wealth of the scene of their exploits, but
attested the commercial and strategic importance of the position upon
which in fact that wealth depended. The carcass was there, and the
eagles as well as the vultures, the far-sighted as well as the mere
carrion birds of prey, were gathering round it. "The spoil of
Granada," said one of these mercenary chieftains, two centuries ago,
"I count as naught beside the knowledge of the great Lake Nicaragua,
and of the route between the Northern and Southern seas which depends
upon it."

As time passed, the struggle for the mastery inevitably resulted, by a
kind of natural selection, in the growing predominance of the people
of the British Islands, in whom commercial enterprise and political
instinct were blended so happily. The very lawlessness of the period
favored the extension of their power and influence; for it removed
from the free play of a nation's innate faculties the fetters which
are imposed by our present elaborate framework of precedents,
constitutions, and international law. Admirably adapted as these are
to the conservation and regular working of a political system, they
are, nevertheless, however wise, essentially artificial, and hence are
ill adapted to a transition state,--to a period in which order is
evolving out of chaos, where the result is durable exactly in
proportion to the freedom with which the natural forces are allowed to
act, and to reach their own equilibrium without extraneous
interference. Nor are such periods confined to the early days of mere
lawlessness. They recur whenever a crisis is reached in the career of
a nation; when old traditions, accepted maxims, or written
constitutions have been outgrown, in whole or in part; when the time
has come for a people to recognize that the limits imposed upon its
expansion, by the political wisdom of its forefathers, have ceased to
be applicable to its own changed conditions and those of the world.
The question then raised is not whether the constitution, as written,
shall be respected. It is how to reach modifications in the
constitution--and that betimes--so that the genius and awakened
intelligence of the people may be free to act, without violating that
respect for its fundamental law upon which national stability
ultimately depends. It is a curious feature of our current journalism
that it is clear-sighted and prompt to see the unfortunate trammels in
which certain of our religious bodies are held, by the cast-iron
tenets imposed upon them by a past generation, while at the same time
political tenets, similarly ancient, and imposed with a like ignorance
of a future which is our present, are invoked freely to forbid this
nation from extending its power and necessary enterprise into and
beyond the seas, to which on every side it now has attained.

During the critical centuries when Great Britain was passing through
that protracted phase of her history in which, from one of the least
among states, she became, through the power of the sea, the very
keystone and foundation upon which rested the commercial--for a time
even the political--fabric of Europe, the free action of her statesmen
and people was clogged by no uneasy sense that the national genius was
in conflict with artificial, self-imposed restrictions. She plunged
into the brawl of nations that followed the discovery of a new world,
of an unoccupied if not unclaimed inheritance, with a vigor and an
initiative which gained ever-accelerated momentum and power as the
years rolled by. Far and wide, in every sea, through every clime, her
seamen and her colonists spread; but while their political genius and
traditions enabled them, in regions adapted to the physical well-being
of the race, to found self-governing colonies which have developed
into one of the greatest, of free states, they did not find, and never
have found, that the possession of and rule over barbarous, or
semi-civilized, or inert tropical communities, were inconsistent with
the maintenance of political liberty in the mother country. The sturdy
vigor of the broad principle of freedom in the national life is
attested sufficiently by centuries of steady growth, that surest
evidence of robust vitality. But, while conforming in the long run to
the dictates of natural justice, no feeble scrupulosity impeded the
nation's advance to power, by which alone its mission and the law of
its being could be fulfilled. No artificial fetters were forged to
cramp the action of the state, nor was it drugged with political
narcotics to dwarf its growth.

In the region here immediately under consideration, Great Britain
entered the contest under conditions of serious disadvantage. The
glorious burst of maritime and colonial enterprise which marked the
reign of Elizabeth, as the new era dawned when the country recognized
the sphere of its true greatness, was confronted by the full power of
Spain, as yet outwardly unshaken, in actual tenure of the most
important positions in the Caribbean and the Spanish Main, and
claiming the right to exclude all others from that quarter of the
world. How brilliantly this claim was resisted is well known; yet, had
they been then in fashion, there might have been urged, to turn
England from the path which has made her what she is, the same
arguments that now are freely used to deter our own country from even
accepting such advantages as are ready to drop into her lap. If it be
true that Great Britain's maritime policy now is imposed to some
extent by the present necessities of the little group of islands which
form the nucleus of her strength, it is not true that any such
necessities first impelled her to claim her share of influence in the
world, her part in the great drama of nations. Not for such reasons
did she launch out upon the career which is perhaps the noblest yet
run by any people. It then could have been said to her, as it now is
said to us, "Why go beyond your own borders? Within them you have what
suffices for your needs and those of your population. There are
manifold abuses within to be corrected, manifold miseries to be
relieved. Let the outside world take care of itself. Defend yourself,
if attacked; being, however, always careful to postpone preparation to
the extreme limit of imprudence. 'Sphere of influence,' 'part in the
world,' 'national prestige,'--there are no such things; or if there
be, they are not worth fighting for." What England would have been,
had she so reasoned, is matter for speculation; that the world would
have been poorer may be confidently affirmed.

As the strength of Spain waned apace during the first half of the
seventeenth century, the external efforts of Great Britain also
slackened through the rise of internal troubles, which culminated in
the Great Rebellion, and absorbed for the time all the energies of the
people. The momentum acquired under Drake, Raleigh, and their
associates was lost, and an occasion, opportune through the exhaustion
of the great enemy, Spain, passed unimproved. But, though thus
temporarily checked, the national tendency remained, and quickly
resumed its sway when Cromwell's mighty hand had composed the
disorders of the Commonwealth. His clear-sighted statesmanship, as
well as the immediate necessities of his internal policy, dictated the
strenuous assertion by sea of Great Britain's claims, not only to
external respect, which he rigorously exacted, but also to her due
share in influencing the world outside her borders. The nation quickly
responded to his proud appeal, and received anew the impulse upon the
road to sea power which never since has been relaxed. To him were due
the measures--not, perhaps, economically the wisest, judged by modern
lights, but more than justified by the conditions of his times--which
drew into English hands the carrying trade of the world. The glories
of the British navy as an organized force date also from his short
rule; and it was he who, in 1655, laid a firm basis for the
development of the country's sea power in the Caribbean, by the
conquest of Jamaica, from a military standpoint the most decisive of
all single positions in that sea for the control of the Isthmus. It is
true that the successful attempt upon this island resulted from the
failure of the leaders to accomplish Cromwell's more immediate purpose
of reducing Santo Domingo,--that in so far the particular fortunate
issue was of the nature of an accident; but this fact serves only to
illustrate more emphatically that, when a general line of policy,
whether military or political, is correctly chosen upon sound
principles, incidental misfortunes or disappointments do not frustrate
the conception. The sagacious, far-seeing motive, which prompted
Cromwell's movement against the West Indian possessions of Spain, was
to contest the latter's claim to the monopoly of that wealthy region;
and he looked upon British extension in the islands as simply a
stepping-stone to control upon the adjacent continent. It is a
singular commentary upon the blindness of historians to the true
secret of Great Britain's rise among the nations, and of the eminent
position she so long has held, that writers so far removed from each
other in time and characteristics as Hume and the late J.R. Green
should detect in this far-reaching effort of the Protector, only the
dulled vision of "a conservative and unspeculative temper misled by
the strength of religious enthusiasm." "A statesman of wise political
genius," according to them, would have fastened his eyes rather upon
the growing power of France, "and discerned the beginning of that
great struggle for supremacy" which was fought out under Louis XIV.
But to do so would have been only to repeat, by anticipation, the
fatal error of that great monarch, which forever forfeited for France
the control of the seas, in which the surest prosperity of nations is
to be found; a mistake, also, far more ruinous to the island kingdom
than it was to her continental rival, bitter though the fruits thereof
have been to the latter. Hallam, with clearer insight, says: "When
Cromwell declared against Spain, and attacked her West Indian
possessions, there was little pretence, certainly, of justice, but not
by any means, as I conceive, the impolicy sometimes charged against
him. So auspicious was his star, that the very failure of that
expedition obtained a more advantageous possession for England than
all the triumphs of her former kings." Most true; but because his star
was despatched in the right direction to look for fortune,--by sea,
not by land.

The great aim of the Protector was checked by his untimely death,
which perhaps also definitely frustrated a fulfilment, in the actual
possession of the Isthmus, that in his strong hands might have been
feasible. His idea, however, remained prominent among the purposes of
the English people, as distinguished from their rulers; and in it, as
has been said before, is to be recognized the significance of the
exploits of the buccaneers, during the period of external debility
which characterized the reigns of the second Charles and James. With
William of Orange the government again placed itself at the head of
the national aspirations, as their natural leader; and the irregular
operations of the freebooters were merged in a settled national
policy. This, although for a moment diverted from its course by
temporary exigencies, was clearly formulated in the avowed objects
with which, in 1702, the wise Dutchman entered upon the War of the
Spanish Succession, the last great act of his political life. From the
Peace of Utrecht, which closed this war in 1713, the same design was
pursued with ever-increasing intensity, but with steady success, and
with it was gradually associated the idea of controlling also the
communication between the two oceans by way of the Isthmus. The best
known instance of this, because of its connection with the great name
of Nelson, was the effort made by him, in conjunction with a land
force, in 1780, when still a simple captain, to take possession of the
course of the San Juan River, and so of the interoceanic route through
Lake Nicaragua. The attempt ended disastrously, owing partly to the
climate, and partly to the strong series of works, numbering no less
than twelve, which the Spaniards, duly sensible of the importance of
the position, had constructed between the lake and the sea.

Difficulties such as were encountered by Nelson withstood Great
Britain's advance throughout this region. While neither blind nor
indifferent to the advantages conferred by actual possession, through
which she had profited elsewhere abundantly, the prior and
long-established occupation by Spain prevented her obtaining by such
means the control she ardently coveted, and in great measure really
exercised. The ascendency which made her, and still makes her, the
dominant factor in the political system of the West Indies and the
Isthmus resulted from her sea power, understood in its broadest sense.
She was the great trader, source of supplies, and medium of
intercourse between the various colonies themselves, and from them to
the outer world; while the capital and shipping employed in this
traffic were protected by a powerful navy, which, except on very rare
occasions, was fully competent to its work. Thus, while unable to
utilize and direct the resources of the countries, as she could have
done had they been her own property, she secured the fruitful use and
reaped the profit of such commercial transactions as were possible
under the inert and narrow rule of the Spaniards. The fact is
instructive, for the conditions to-day are substantially the same as
those of a century ago. Possession still vests in states and races
which have not attained yet the faculty of developing by themselves
the advantages conferred by nature; and control will abide still with
those whose ships, whose capital, whose traders support the industrial
system of the region, provided these are backed by a naval force
adequate to the demands of the military situation, rightly understood.
To any foreign state, control at the Central American Isthmus means
naval control, naval predominance, to which tenure of the land is at
best but a convenient incident.

Such, in brief, was the general tendency of events until the time when
the Spanish colonial empire began to break up, in 1808-10, and the
industrial system of the West India islands to succumb under the
approaching abolition of slavery. The concurrence of these two
decisive incidents, and the confusion which ensued in the political
and economical conditions, rapidly reduced the Isthmus and its
approaches to an insignificance from which the islands have not yet
recovered. The Isthmus is partially restored. Its importance, however,
depends upon causes more permanent, in the natural order of things,
than does that of the islands, which, under existing circumstances,
and under any circumstances that can be foreseen as yet, derive their
consequence chiefly from the effect which may be exerted from them
upon the tenure of the Isthmus. Hence the latter, after a period of
comparative obscurity, again emerged into notice as a vital political
factor, when the spread of the United States to the Pacific raised the
question of rapid and secure communication between our two great
seaboards. The Mexican War, the acquisition of California, the
discovery of gold, and the mad rush to the diggings which followed,
hastened, but by no means originated, the necessity for a settlement
of the intricate problems involved, in which the United States, from
its positions on the two seas, has the predominant interest. But,
though predominant, ours is not the sole interest; though less vital,
those of other foreign states are great and consequential; and,
accordingly, no settlement can be considered to constitute an
equilibrium, much less a finality, which does not effect our
preponderating influence, and at the same time insure the natural
rights of other peoples. So far as the logical distinction between
commercial and political will hold, it may be said that our interest
is both commercial and political, that of other states almost wholly

The same national characteristics that of old made Great Britain the
chief contestant in all questions of maritime importance--with the
Dutch in the Mediterranean, with France in the East Indies, and with
Spain in the West--have made her also the exponent of foreign
opposition to our own asserted interest in the Isthmus. The policy
initiated by Cromwell, of systematic aggression in the Caribbean, and
of naval expansion and organization, has resulted in a combination of
naval force with naval positions unequalled, though not wholly
unrivalled, in that sea. And since, as the great sea carrier, Great
Britain has a preponderating natural interest in every new route open
to commerce, it is inevitable that she should scrutinize jealously
every proposition for the modification of existing arrangements,
conscious as she is of power to assert her claims, in case the
question should be submitted to the last appeal.

Nevertheless, although from the nature of the occupations which
constitute the welfare of her people, as well as from the
characteristics of her power, Great Britain seemingly has the larger
immediate stake in a prospective interoceanic canal, it has been
recognized tacitly on her part, as on our side openly asserted, that
the bearing of all questions of Isthmian transit upon our national
progress, safety, and honor, is more direct and more urgent than upon
hers. That she has felt so is plain from the manner in which she has
yielded before our tenacious remonstrances, in cases where the control
of the Isthmus was evidently the object of her action,--as in the
matters of the tenure of the Bay Islands and of the protectorate of
the Mosquito Coast. Our superior interest appears also from the nature
of the conditions which will follow from the construction of a canal.
So far as these changes are purely commercial, they will operate to
some extent to the disadvantage of Great Britain; because the result
will be to bring our Atlantic seaboard, the frontier of a rival
manufacturing and commercial state, much nearer to the Pacific than it
now is, and nearer to many points of that ocean than is England. To
make a rough general statement, easily grasped by a reader without the
map before him, Liverpool and New York are at present about
equidistant, by water, from all points on the west coast of America,
from Valparaiso to British Columbia. This is due to the fact that, to
go through the Straits of Magellan, vessels from both ports must pass
near Cape St. Roque, on the east coast of Brazil, which is nearly the
same distance from each. If the Nicaragua Canal existed, the line on
the Pacific equidistant from the two cities named would pass, roughly,
by Yokohama, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Melbourne, or along the coasts
of Japan, China, and eastern Australia,--Liverpool, in this case,
using the Suez Canal, and New York that of Nicaragua. In short, the
line of equidistance would be shifted from the eastern shore of the
Pacific to its western coast, and all points of that ocean east of
Japan, China, and Australia--for example, the Hawaiian Islands--would
be nearer to New York than to Liverpool.

A recent British writer has calculated that about one-eighth of the
existing trade of the British Islands would be affected unfavorably by
the competition thus introduced. But this result, though a matter of
national concern, is political only in so far as commercial prosperity
or adversity modifies a nation's current history; that is, indirectly.
The principal questions affecting the integrity or security of the
British Empire are not involved seriously, for almost all of its
component parts lie within the regions whose mutual bond of union and
shortest line of approach are the Suez Canal. Nowhere has Great
Britain so little territory at stake, nowhere has she such scanty
possessions, as in the eastern Pacific, upon whose relations to the
world at large, and to ourselves in particular, the Isthmian Canal
will exert the greatest influence.

The chief political result of the Isthmian Canal will be to bring our
Pacific coast nearer, not only to our Atlantic seaboard, but also to
the great navies of Europe. Therefore, while the commercial gain,
through an uninterrupted water carriage, will be large, and is clearly
indicated by the acrimony with which a leading journal, apparently in
the interest of the great transcontinental roads, has lately
maintained the singular assertion that water transit is obsolete as
compared with land carriage, it is still true that the canal will
present an element of much weakness from the military point of view.
Except to those optimists whose robust faith in the regeneration of
human nature rejects war as an impossible contingency, this
consideration must occasion serious thought concerning the policy to
be adopted by the United States.

The subject, so far, has given rise only to diplomatic arrangement and
discussion, within which it is permissible to hope it always may be
confined; but the misunderstandings and protracted disputes that
followed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and the dissatisfaction with the
existing status that still obtains among many of our people, give
warning that our steps, as a nation, should be governed by some
settled notions, too universally held to be set aside by a mere change
of administration or caprice of popular will. Reasonable discussion,
which tends, either by its truth or by its evident errors, to clarify
and crystallize public opinion on so important a matter, never can be

This question, from an abstract, speculative phase of the Monroe
Doctrine, took on the concrete and somewhat urgent form of security
for our trans-Isthmian routes against foreign interference towards the
middle of this century, when the attempt to settle it was made by the
oft-mentioned Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, signed April 19, 1850. Great
Britain was found then to be in possession, actual or constructive, of
certain continental positions, and of some outlying islands, which
would contribute not only to military control, but to that kind of
political interference which experience has shown to be the natural
consequence of the proximity of a strong power to a weak one. These
positions depended upon, indeed their tenure originated in, the
possession of Jamaica, thus justifying Cromwell's forecast. Of them,
the Belize, a strip of coast two hundred miles long, on the Bay of
Honduras, immediately south of Yucatan, was so far from the Isthmus
proper, and so little likely to affect the canal question, that the
American negotiator was satisfied to allow its tenure to pass
unquestioned, neither admitting nor denying anything as to the rights
of Great Britain thereto. Its first occupation had been by British
freebooters, who "squatted" there a very few years after Jamaica fell.
They went to cut logwood, succeeded in holding their ground against
the efforts of Spain to dislodge them, and their right to occupancy
and to fell timber was allowed afterwards by treaty. Since the
signature of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, this "settlement," as it was
styled in that instrument, has become a British "possession," by a
convention with Guatemala contracted in 1859. Later, in 1862, the
quondam "settlement" and recent "possession" was erected, by royal
commission, into a full colony, subordinate to the government of
Jamaica. Guatemala being a Central American state, this constituted a
distinct advance of British dominion in Central America, contrary to
the terms of our treaty.

A more important claim of Great Britain was to the protectorate of the
Mosquito Coast,--a strip understood by her to extend from Cape Gracias
a Dios south to the San Juan River. In its origin, this asserted right
differed little from similar transactions between civilized man and
savages, in all times and all places. In 1687, thirty years after the
island was acquired, a chief of the aborigines there settled was
carried to Jamaica, received some paltry presents, and accepted
British protection. While Spanish control lasted, a certain amount of
squabbling and fighting went on between the two nations; but when the
questions arose between England and the United States, the latter
refused to acquiesce in the so-called protectorate, which rested, in
her opinion, upon no sufficient legal ground as against the prior
right of Spain, that was held to have passed to Nicaragua when the
latter achieved its independence. The Mosquito Coast was too close to
the expected canal for its tenure to be considered a matter of
indifference. Similar ground was taken with regard to the Bay Islands,
Ruatan and others, stretching along the south side of the Bay of
Honduras, near the coast of the republic of that name, and so uniting,
under the control of the great naval power, the Belize to the Mosquito
Coast. The United States maintained that these islands, then occupied
by Great Britain, belonged in full right to Honduras.

Under these _de facto_ conditions of British occupation, the United
States negotiator, in his eagerness to obtain the recession of the
disputed points to the Spanish-American republics, seems to have paid
too little regard to future bearings of the subject. Men's minds also
were dominated then, as they are now notwithstanding the intervening
experience of nearly half a century, by the maxims delivered as a
tradition by the founders of the republic who deprecated annexations
of territory abroad. The upshot was that, in consideration of Great
Britain's withdrawal from Mosquitia and the Bay Islands, to which, by
our contention, she had no right, and therefore really yielded nothing
but a dispute, we bound ourselves, as did she, without term, to
acquire no territory in Central America, and to guarantee the
neutrality not only of the contemplated canal, but of any other that
might be constructed. A special article, the eighth, was incorporated
in the treaty to this effect, stating expressly that the wish of the
two governments was "not only to accomplish a particular object, but
to establish a general principle."

Considerable delay ensued in the restoration of the islands and of the
Mosquito Coast to Honduras and Nicaragua,--a delay attended with
prolonged discussion and serious misunderstanding between the United
States and Great Britain. The latter claimed that, by the wording of
the treaty, she had debarred herself only from future acquisitions of
territory in Central America; whereas our government asserted, and
persistently instructed its agents, that its understanding had been
that an entire abandonment of all possession, present and future, was
secured by the agreement. It is difficult, in reading the first
article, not to feel that, although the practice may have been perhaps
somewhat sharp, the wording can sustain the British position quite as
well as the more ingenuous confidence of the United States negotiator;
an observation interesting chiefly as showing the eagerness on the one
side, whose contention was the weaker in all save right, and the
wariness on the other, upon whom present possession and naval power
conferred a marked advantage in making a bargain. By 1860, however,
the restorations had been made, and the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty since
then has remained the international agreement, defining our relations
to Great Britain on the Isthmus.

Of the subsequent wrangling over this unfortunate treaty, if so
invidious a term may be applied to the dignified utterances of
diplomacy, it is unnecessary to give a detailed account. Our own
country cannot but regret and resent any formal stipulations which
fetter its primacy of influence and control on the American continent
and in American seas; and the concessions of principle over-eagerly
made in 1850, in order to gain compensating advantages which our
weakness could not extort otherwise, must needs cause us to chafe now,
when we are potentially, though, it must be confessed sorrowfully, not
actually, stronger by double than we were then. The interest of Great
Britain still lies, as it then lay, in the maintenance of the treaty.
So long as the United States jealously resents all foreign
interference in the Isthmus, and at the same time takes no steps to
formulate a policy or develop a strength that can give shape and force
to her own pretensions, just so long will the absolute control over
any probable contingency of the future rest with Great Britain, by
virtue of her naval positions, her naval power, and her omnipresent

A recent unofficial British estimate of the British policy at the
Isthmus, as summarized in the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, may here have
interest: "In the United States was recognized a coming formidable
rival to British trade. In the face of the estimated disadvantage to
European trade in general, and that of Great Britain in particular, to
be looked for from a Central American canal, British statesmen,
finding their last attempt to control the most feasible route (by
Nicaragua) abortive, accomplished the next best object in the interest
of British trade. They cast the onus of building the canal on the
people who would reap the greatest advantage from it, and who were
bound to keep every one else out, but were at the same time very
unlikely to undertake such a gigantic enterprise outside their own
undeveloped territories for many a long year; while at the same time
they skilfully handicapped that country in favor of British sea power
by entering into a joint guarantee to respect its neutrality when
built. This secured postponement of construction indefinitely, and yet
forfeited no substantial advantage necessary to establish effective
naval control in the interests of British carrying trade."

Whether this passage truly represents the deliberate purpose of
successive British governments may be doubtful, but it is an accurate
enough estimate of the substantial result, as long as our policy
continues to be to talk loud and to do nothing,--to keep others out,
while refusing ourselves to go in. We neutralize effectually enough,
doubtless; for we neutralize ourselves while leaving other powers to
act efficiently whenever it becomes worth while.

In a state like our own, national policy means public conviction, else
it is but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. But public
conviction is a very different thing from popular impression,
differing by all that separates a rational process, resulting in manly
resolve, from a weakly sentiment that finds occasional hysterical
utterance. The Monroe Doctrine, as popularly apprehended and indorsed,
is a rather nebulous generality, which has condensed about the Isthmus
into a faint point of more defined luminosity. To those who will
regard, it is the harbinger of the day, incompletely seen in the
vision of the great discoverer, when the East and the West shall be
brought into closer communion by the realization of the strait that
baffled his eager search. But, with the strait, time has introduced a
factor of which he could not dream,--a great nation midway between the
West he knew and the East he sought, spanning the continent he
unwittingly found, itself both East and West in one. To such a state,
which in itself sums up the two conditions of Columbus's problem; to
which the control of the strait is a necessity, if not of existence,
at least of its full development and of its national security, who can
deny the right to predominate in influence over a region so vital to
it? None can deny save its own people; and they do it,--not in words,
perhaps, but in act. For let it not be forgotten that failure to act
at an opportune moment is action as real as, though less creditable
than, the most strenuous positive effort.

Action, however, to be consistent and well proportioned, must depend
upon well-settled conviction; and conviction, if it is to be
reasonable, and to find expression in a sound and continuous national
policy, must result from a careful consideration of present conditions
in the light of past experiences. Here, unquestionably, strong
differences of opinion will be manifested at first, both as to the
true significance of the lessons of the past, and the manner of
applying them to the present. Such differences need not cause regret.
Their appearance is a sign of attention aroused; and when discussion
has become general and animated, we may hope to see the gradual
emergence of a sound and operative public sentiment. What is to be
deprecated and feared is indolent drifting, in wilful blindness to the
approaching moment when action must be taken; careless delay to remove
fetters, if such there be in the Constitution or in traditional
prejudice, which may prevent our seizing opportunity when it occurs.
Whatever be the particular merits of the pending Hawaiian question, it
scarcely can be denied that its discussion has revealed the existence,
real or fancied, of such clogs upon our action, and of a painful
disposition to consider each such occurrence as merely an isolated
event, instead of being, as it is, a warning that the time has come
when we must make up our minds upon a broad issue of national policy.
That there should be two opinions is not bad, but it is very bad to
halt long between them.

There is one opinion--which it is needless to say the writer does not
share--that, because many years have gone by without armed collision
with a great power, the teaching of the past is that none such can
occur; and that, in fact, the weaker we are in organized military
strength, the more easy it is for our opponents to yield our points.
Closely associated with this view is the obstinate rejection of any
political action which involves implicitly the projection of our
physical power, if needed, beyond the waters that gird our shores.
Because our reasonable, natural--it might almost be called
moral--claim to preponderant influence at the Isthmus heretofore has
compelled respect, though reluctantly conceded, it is assumed that no
circumstances can give rise to a persistent denial of it.

It appears to the writer--and to many others with whom he agrees,
though without claim to represent them--that the true state of the
case is more nearly as follows: Since our nation came into being, a
century ago, with the exception of a brief agitation about the year
1850,--due to special causes, which, though suggestive, were not
adequate, and summarized as to results in the paralyzing
Clayton-Bulwer Treaty,--the importance of the Central American Isthmus
has been merely potential and dormant. But, while thus temporarily
obscured, its intrinsic conditions of position and conformation bestow
upon it a consequence in relation to the rest of the world which is
inalienable, and therefore, to become operative, only awaits those
changes in external conditions that must come in the fulness of time.
The indications of such changes are already sufficiently visible to
challenge attention. The rapid peopling of our territory entails at
least two. The growth of the Pacific States enhances the commercial
and political importance of the Pacific Ocean to the world at large,
and to ourselves in particular; while the productive energies of the
country, and its advent to the three seas, impel it necessarily to
seek outlet by them and access to the regions beyond. Under such
conditions, perhaps not yet come, but plainly coming, the consequence
of an artificial waterway that shall enable the Atlantic coast to
compete with Europe, on equal terms as to distance, for the markets of
eastern Asia, and shall shorten by two-thirds the sea route from New
York to San Francisco, and by one-half that to Valparaiso, is too
evident for insistence.

In these conditions, not in European necessities, is to be found the
assurance that the canal will be made. Not to ourselves only, however,
though to ourselves chiefly, will it be a matter of interest when
completed. Many causes will combine to retain in the line of the Suez
Canal the commerce of Europe with the East; but to the American shores
of the Pacific the Isthmian canal will afford a much shorter and
easier access for a trade already of noteworthy proportions. A weighty
consideration also is involved in the effect upon British navigation
of a war which should endanger its use of the Suez Canal. The power of
Great Britain to control the long route from Gibraltar to the Red Sea
is seriously doubted by a large and thoughtful body of her statesmen
and seamen, who favor dependence, in war, upon that by the Cape of
Good Hope. By Nicaragua, however, would be shorter than by the Cape to
many parts of the East; and the Caribbean can be safeguarded against
distant European states much more easily than the line through the
Mediterranean, which passes close by their ports.

Under this increased importance of the Isthmus, we cannot safely
anticipate for the future the cheap acquiescence which, under very
different circumstances, has been yielded in the past to our demands.
Already it is notorious that European powers are betraying symptoms of
increased sensitiveness as to the value of Caribbean positions, and
are strengthening their grip upon those they now hold. Moral
considerations undoubtedly count for more than they did, and nations
are more reluctant to enter into war; but still, the policy of states
is determined by the balance of advantages, and it behooves us to know
what our policy is to be, and what advantages are needed to turn in
our favor the scale of negotiations and the general current of events.

If the decision of the nation, following one school of thought, is
that the weaker we are the more likely we are to have our way, there
is little to be said. Drifting is perhaps as good a mode as another to
reach that desirable goal. If, on the other hand, we determine that
our interest and dignity require that our rights should depend upon
the will of no other state, but upon our own power to enforce them, we
must gird ourselves to admit that freedom of interoceanic transit
depends upon predominance in a maritime region--the Caribbean
Sea--through which pass all the approaches to the Isthmus. Control of
a maritime region is insured primarily by a navy; secondarily, by
positions, suitably chosen and spaced one from the other, upon which
as bases the navy rests, and from which it can exert its strength. At
present the positions of the Caribbean are occupied by foreign powers,
nor may we, however disposed to acquisition, obtain them by means
other than righteous; but a distinct advance will have been made when
public opinion is convinced that we need them, and should not exert
our utmost ingenuity to dodge them when flung at our head. If the
Constitution really imposes difficulties, it provides also a way by
which the people, if convinced, can remove its obstructions. A
protest, however, may be entered against a construction of the
Constitution which is liberal, by embracing all it can be constrained
to imply, and then immediately becomes strict in imposing these
ingeniously contrived fetters.

Meanwhile no moral obligation forbids developing our navy upon lines
and proportions adequate to the work it may be called upon to do.
Here, again, the crippling force is a public impression, which limits
our potential strength to the necessities of an imperfectly realized
situation. A navy "for defence only" is a popular catchword. When, if
ever, people recognize that we have three seaboards, that the
communication by water of one of them with the other two will depend
in a not remote future upon a strategic position hundreds of miles
distant from our nearest port,--the mouth of the Mississippi,--they
will see also that the word "defence," already too narrowly
understood, has its application at points far away from our own coast.

That the organization of military strength involves provocation to war
is a fallacy, which the experience of each succeeding year now
refutes. The immense armaments of Europe are onerous; but
nevertheless, by the mutual respect and caution they enforce, they
present a cheap alternative, certainly in misery, probably in money,
to the frequent devastating wars which preceded the era of general
military preparation. Our own impunity has resulted, not from our
weakness, but from the unimportance to our rivals of the points in
dispute, compared with their more immediate interests at home. With
the changes consequent upon the canal, this indifference will
diminish. We also shall be entangled in the affairs of the great
family of nations, and shall have to accept the attendant burdens.
Fortunately, as regards other states, we are an island power, and can
find our best precedents in the history of the people to whom the sea
has been a nursing mother.


_July, 1894._

    [The following article was requested by the Editor of the "North
    American Review," as one of a number, by several persons, dealing
    with the question of a formal political connection, proposed by
    Mr. Andrew Carnegie, between the United States and the British
    Empire, for the advancement of the general interests of the
    English-speaking peoples. The projects advocated by previous
    writers embraced: 1, a federate union; 2, a merely naval union or
    alliance; or, 3, a defensive alliance of a kind frequent in
    political history.]

The words "kinship" and "alliance" express two radically distinct
ideas, and rest, for both the privileges and the obligations involved
in them, upon foundations essentially different. The former represents
a natural relation, the latter one purely conventional,--even though
it may result from the feelings, the mutual interests, and the sense
of incumbent duty attendant upon the other. In its very etymology,
accordingly, is found implied that sense of constraint, of an
artificial bond, that may prove a source, not only of strength, but of
irksomeness as well. Its analogue in our social conditions is the
marriage tie,--the strongest, doubtless, of all bonds when it realizes
in the particular case the supreme affection of which our human nature
is capable; but likewise, as daily experience shows, the most fretting
when, through original mistake or unworthy motive, love fails, and
obligation alone remains.

Personally, I am happy to believe that the gradual but, as I think,
unmistakable growth of mutual kindly feelings between Great Britain
and the United States during these latter years--and of which the
recent articles of Sir George Clarke and Mr. Arthur Silva White in the
"North American Review" are pleasant indications--is a sure evidence
that a common tongue and common descent are making themselves felt,
and are breaking down the barriers of estrangement which have
separated too long men of the same blood. There is seen here the
working of kinship,--a wholly normal result of a common origin, the
natural affection of children of the same descent, who have quarrelled
and have been alienated with the proverbial bitterness of civil
strife, but who all along have realized--or at the least have been
dimly conscious--that such a state of things is wrong and harmful. As
a matter of sentiment only, this reviving affection well might fix the
serious attention of those who watch the growth of world questions,
recognizing how far imagination and sympathy rule the world; but when,
besides the powerful sentimental impulse, it is remembered that
beneath considerable differences of political form there lie a common
inherited political tradition and habit of thought, that the moral
forces which govern and shape political development are the same in
either people, the possibility of a gradual approach to concerted
action becomes increasingly striking. Of all the elements of the
civilization that has spread over Europe and America, none is so
potential for good as that singular combination of two essential but
opposing factors--of individual freedom with subjection to law--which
finds its most vigorous working in Great Britain and the United
States, its only exponents in which an approach to a due balance has
been effected. Like other peoples, we also sway between the two,
inclining now to one side, now to the other; but the departure from
the normal in either direction is never very great.

There is yet another noteworthy condition common to the two states,
which must tend to incline them towards a similar course of action in
the future. Partners, each, in the great commonwealth of nations which
share the blessings of European civilization, they alone, though in
varying degrees, are so severed geographically from all existing
rivals as to be exempt from the burden of great land armies; while at
the same time they must depend upon the sea, in chief measure, for
that intercourse with other members of the body upon which national
well-being depends. How great an influence upon the history of Great
Britain has been exerted by this geographical isolation is
sufficiently understood. In her case the natural tendency has been
increased abnormally by the limited territorial extent of the British
Islands, which has forced the energies of their inhabitants to seek
fields for action outside their own borders; but the figures quoted by
Sir George Clarke sufficiently show that the same tendency, arising
from the same cause, does exist and is operative in the United States,
despite the diversion arising from the immense internal domain not yet
fully occupied, and the great body of home consumers which has been
secured by the protective system. The geographical condition, in
short, is the same in kind, though differing in degree, and must impel
in the same direction. To other states the land, with its privileges
and its glories, is the chief source of national prosperity and
distinction. To Great Britain and the United States, if they rightly
estimate the part they may play in the great drama of human progress,
is intrusted a maritime interest, in the broadest sense of the word,
which demands, as one of the conditions of its exercise and its
safety, the organized force adequate to control the general course of
events at sea; to maintain, if necessity arise, not arbitrarily, but
as those in whom interest and power alike justify the claim to do so,
the laws that shall regulate maritime warfare. This is no mere
speculation, resting upon a course of specious reasoning, but is based
on the teaching of the past. By the exertion of such force, and by the
maintenance of such laws, and by these means only, Great Britain, in
the beginning of this century, when she was the solitary power of the
seas, saved herself from destruction, and powerfully modified for the
better the course of history.

With such strong determining conditions combining to converge the two
nations into the same highway, and with the visible dawn of the day
when this impulse begins to find expression in act, the question
naturally arises, What should be the immediate course to be favored by
those who hail the growing light, and would hasten gladly the perfect
day? That there are not a few who seek a reply to this question is
evidenced by the articles of Mr. Carnegie, of Sir George Clarke, and
of Mr. White, all appearing within a short time in the pages of the
"North American Review." And it is here, I own, that, though desirous
as any one can be to see the fact accomplished, I shrink from
contemplating it, under present conditions, in the form of an
alliance, naval or other. Rather I should say: Let each nation be
educated to realize the length and breadth of its own interest in the
sea; when that is done, the identity of these interests will become
apparent. This identity cannot be established firmly in men's minds
antecedent to the great teacher, Experience; and experience cannot be
had before that further development of the facts which will follow the
not far distant day, when the United States people must again betake
themselves to the sea and to external action, as did their forefathers
alike in their old home and in the new.

There are, besides, questions in which at present doubt, if not even
friction, might arise as to the proper sphere of each nation,
agreement concerning which is essential to cordial co-operation; and
this the more, because Great Britain could not be expected reasonably
to depend upon our fulfilment of the terms of an alliance, or to yield
in points essential to her own maritime power, so long as the United
States is unwilling herself to assure the security of the positions
involved by the creation of an adequate force. It is just because in
that process of adjusting the parts to be played by each nation, upon
which alone a satisfactory cooperation can be established, a certain
amount of friction is probable, that I would avoid all premature
striving for alliance, an artificial and possibly even an irritating
method of reaching the desired end. Instead, I would dwell continually
upon those undeniable points of resemblance in natural characteristics,
and in surrounding conditions, which testify to common origin and
predict a common destiny. Cast the seed of this thought into the
ground, and it will spring and grow up, you know not how,--first the
blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Then you may put
in your sickle and reap the harvest of political result, which as yet
is obviously immature. How quietly and unmarked, like the slow
processes of nature, such feelings may be wrought into the very being
of nations, was evidenced by the sudden and rapid rising of the North
at the outbreak of our civil war, when the flag was fired upon at Fort
Sumter. Then was shown how deeply had sunk into the popular heart the
devotion to the Union and the flag, fostered by long dwelling upon the
ideas, by innumerable Fourth of July orations, often doubtless
vainglorious, sometimes perhaps grotesque, but whose living force and
overwhelming results were vividly apparent, as the fire leaped from
hearthstone to hearthstone throughout the Northern States. Equally in
the South was apparent how tenacious and compelling was the grip which
the constant insistence upon the predominant claim of the State upon
individual loyalty had struck into the hearts of her sons. What paper
bonds, treaties, or alliances could have availed then to hold together
people whose ideals had drifted so far apart, whose interests, as each
at that time saw them, had become so opposed?

Although I am convinced firmly that it would be to the interest of
Great Britain and the United States, and for the benefit of the world,
that the two nations should act together cordially on the seas, I am
equally sure that the result not only must be hoped but also quietly
waited for, while the conditions upon which such cordiality depends
are being realized by men. All are familiar with the idea conveyed by
the words "forcing process." There are things that cannot be forced,
processes which cannot be hurried, growths which are strong and noble
in proportion as they imbibe slowly the beneficent influence of the
sun and air in which they are bathed. How far the forcing process can
be attempted by an extravagant imagination, and what the inevitable
recoil of the mind you seek to take by storm, is amusingly shown by
Mr. Carnegie's "Look Ahead," and by the demur thereto of so ardent a
champion of Anglo-American alliance--on terms which appear to me to
be rational though premature--as Sir George Clarke. A country with a
past as glorious and laborious as that of Great Britain, unprepared
as yet, as a whole, to take a single step forward toward reunion,
is confronted suddenly--as though the temptation must be
irresistible--with a picture of ultimate results which I will not
undertake to call impossible (who can say what is impossible?), but
which certainly deprives the nation of much, if not all, the
hard-wrought achievement of centuries. Disunion, loss of national
identity, changes of constitution more than radical, the exchange of a
world-wide empire for a subordinate part in a great federation,--such
_may_ be the destiny of Great Britain in the distant future. I know
not; but sure I am, were I a citizen of Great Britain, the prospect
would not allure me now to move an inch in such a direction. Surely in
vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

The suggestions of Sir George Clarke and of Mr. White are not open to
the reproach of repelling those whom they seek to convince. They are
clear, plain, business-like propositions, based upon indisputable
reasons of mutual advantage, and in the case of the former quickened,
as I have the pleasure of knowing through personal acquaintance, by a
more than cordial good-will and breadth of view in all that relates to
the United States. Avoiding criticism of details--of which I have
little to offer--my objection to them is simply that I do not think
the time is yet ripe. The ground is not prepared yet in the hearts and
understandings of Americans, and I doubt whether in those of British
citizens. Both proposals contemplate a naval alliance, though on
differing terms. The difficulty is that the United States, as a
nation, does not realize or admit as yet that it has any strong
interest in the sea; and that the great majority of our people rest
firmly in a belief, deep rooted in the political history of our past,
that our ambitions should be limited by the three seas that wash our
eastern, western, and southern coasts. For myself, I believe that
this, once a truth, can be considered so no longer with reference even
to the present--much less to a future so near that it scarcely needs a
prophet's eye to read; but even if it be but a prejudice, it must be
removed before a further step can be taken. In our country national
policy, if it is to be steadfast and consistent, must be identical
with public conviction. The latter, when formed, may remain long
quiescent; but given the appointed time, it will spring to mighty
action--aye, to arms--as did the North and the South under their
several impulses in 1861.

It is impossible that one who sees in the sea--in the function which
it discharges towards the world at large--the most potent factor in
national prosperity and in the course of history, should not desire a
change in the mental attitude of our countrymen towards maritime
affairs. The subject presents itself not merely as one of national
importance, but as one concerning the world's history and the welfare
of mankind, which are bound up, so far as we can see, in the security
and strength of that civilization which is identified with Europe and
its offshoots in America. For what, after all, is our not unjustly
vaunted European and American civilization? An oasis set in the midst
of a desert of barbarism, rent with many intestine troubles, and
ultimately dependent, not upon its mere elaboration of organization,
but upon the power of that organization to express itself in a
menacing and efficient attitude of physical force, sufficient to
resist the numerically overwhelming, but inadequately organized hosts
of outsiders. Under present conditions these are diked off by the
magnificent military organizations of Europe, which also as yet cope
successfully with the barbarians within. Of what the latter are
capable--at least in will--we have from time to time, and not least of
late, terrific warnings, to which men scarcely can shut their eyes and
ears; but sufficient attention hardly is paid to the possible dangers
from those outside, who are wholly alien to the spirit of our
civilization; nor do men realize how essential to the conservation of
that civilization is the attitude of armed watchfulness between
nations, which is maintained now by the great states of Europe. Even
if we leave out of consideration the invaluable benefit to society, in
this age of insubordination and anarchy, that so large a number of
youth, at the most impressionable age, receive the lessons of
obedience, order, respect for authority and law, by which military
training conveys a potent antidote to lawlessness, it still would
remain a mistake, plausible but utter, to see in the hoped-for
subsidence of the military spirit in the nations of Europe a pledge of
surer progress of the world towards universal peace, general material
prosperity, and ease. That alluring, albeit somewhat ignoble, ideal is
not to be attained by the representatives of civilization dropping
their arms, relaxing the tension of their moral muscle, and from
fighting animals becoming fattened cattle fit only for slaughter.

When Carthage fell, and Rome moved onward, without an equal enemy
against whom to guard, to the dominion of the world of Mediterranean
civilization, she approached and gradually realized the reign of
universal peace, broken only by those intestine social and political
dissensions which are finding their dark analogues in our modern times
of infrequent war. As the strife between nations of that civilization
died away, material prosperity, general cultivation and luxury,
flourished, while the weapons dropped nervelessly from their palsied
arms. The genius of Caesar, in his Gallic and Germanic campaigns, built
up an outside barrier, which, like a dike, for centuries postponed the
inevitable end, but which also, like every artificial barrier, gave
way when the strong masculine impulse which first created it had
degenerated into that worship of comfort, wealth, and general
softness, which is the ideal of the peace prophets of to-day. The wave
of the invaders broke in,--the rain descended, the floods came, the
winds blew, and beat upon the house, and it fell, because not founded
upon the rock of virile reliance upon strong hands and brave hearts to
defend what was dear to them.

Ease unbroken, trade uninterrupted, hardship done away, all roughness
removed from life,--these are our modern gods; but can they deliver
us, should we succeed in setting them up for worship? Fortunately, as
yet we cannot do so. We may, if we will, shut our eyes to the vast
outside masses of aliens to our civilization, now powerless because we
still, with a higher material development, retain the masculine
combative virtues which are their chief possession; but, even if we
disregard them, the ground already shakes beneath our feet with
physical menace of destruction from within, against which the only
security is in constant readiness to contend. In the rivalries of
nations, in the accentuation of differences, in the conflict of
ambitions, lies the preservation of the martial spirit, which alone is
capable of coping finally with the destructive forces that from
outside and from within threaten to submerge all the centuries have

It is not then merely, nor even chiefly, a pledge of universal peace
that may be seen in the United States becoming a naval power of
serious import, with clearly defined external ambitions dictated by
the necessities of her interoceanic position; nor yet in the cordial
co-operation, as of kindred peoples, that the future may have in store
for her and Great Britain. Not in universal harmony, nor in fond
dreams of unbroken peace, rest now the best hopes of the world, as
involved in the fate of European civilization. Rather in the
competition of interests, in that reviving sense of nationality, which
is the true antidote to what is bad in socialism, in the jealous
determination of each people to provide first for its own, of which
the tide of protection rising throughout the world, whether
economically an error or not, is so marked a symptom--in these jarring
sounds which betoken that there is no immediate danger of the leading
peoples turning their swords into ploughshares--are to be heard the
assurance that decay has not touched yet the majestic fabric erected
by so many centuries of courageous battling. In this same pregnant
strife the United States doubtless will be led, by undeniable
interests and aroused national sympathies, to play a part, to cast
aside the policy of isolation which befitted her infancy, and to
recognize that, whereas once to avoid European entanglement was
essential to the development of her individuality, now to take her
share of the travail of Europe is but to assume an inevitable task, an
appointed lot, in the work of upholding the common interests of
civilization. Our Pacific slope, and the Pacific colonies of Great
Britain, with an instinctive shudder have felt the threat, which able
Europeans have seen in the teeming multitudes of central and northern
Asia; while their overflow into the Pacific Islands shows that not
only westward by land, but also eastward by sea, the flood may sweep.
I am not careful, however, to search into the details of a great
movement, which indeed may never come, but whose possibility, in
existing conditions, looms large upon the horizon of the future, and
against which the only barrier will be the warlike spirit of the
representatives of civilization. Whate'er betide, Sea Power will play
in those days the leading part which it has in all history, and the
United States by her geographical position must be one of the
frontiers from which, as from a base of operations, the Sea Power of
the civilized world will energize.

For this seemingly remote contingency preparation will be made, if men
then shall be found prepared, by a practical recognition now of
existing conditions--such as those mentioned in the opening of this
paper--and acting upon that knowledge. Control of the sea, by maritime
commerce and naval supremacy, means predominant influence in the
world; because, however great the wealth product of the land, nothing
facilitates the necessary exchanges as does the sea. The fundamental
truth concerning the sea--perhaps we should rather say the water--is
that it is Nature's great medium of communication. It is improbable
that control ever again will be exercised, as once it was, by a single
nation. Like the pettier interests of the land, it must be competed
for, perhaps fought for. The greatest of the prizes for which nations
contend, it too will serve, like other conflicting interests, to keep
alive that temper of stern purpose and strenuous emulation which is
the salt of the society of civilized states, whose unity is to be
found, not in a flat identity of conditions--the ideal of
socialism--but in a common standard of moral and intellectual ideas.

Also, amid much that is shared by all the nations of European
civilization, there are, as is universally recognized, certain radical
differences of temperament and character, which tend to divide them
into groups having the marked affinities of a common origin. When, as
frequently happens on land, the members of these groups are
geographically near each other, the mere proximity seems, like similar
electricities, to develop repulsions which render political variance
the rule and political combination the exception. But when, as is the
case with Great Britain and the United States, the frontiers are
remote, and contact--save in Canada--too slight to cause political
friction, the preservation, advancement, and predominance of the race
may well become a political ideal, to be furthered by political
combination, which in turn should rest, primarily, not upon cleverly
constructed treaties, but upon natural affection and a clear
recognition of mutual benefit arising from working together. If the
spirit be there, the necessary machinery for its working will not pass
the wit of the race to provide; and in the control of the sea, the
beneficent instrument that separates us that we may be better friends,
will be found the object that neither the one nor the other can
master, but which may not be beyond the conjoined energies of the
race. When, if ever, an Anglo-American alliance, naval or other, does
come, may it be rather as a yielding to irresistible popular impulse
than as a scheme, however ingeniously wrought, imposed by the
adroitness of statesmen.

We may, however, I think, dismiss from our minds the belief, frequently
advanced, and which is advocated so ably by Sir George Clarke, that
such mutual support would tend in the future to exempt maritime
commerce in general from the harassment which it hitherto has undergone
in war. I shall have to try for special clearness here in stating my
own views, partly because to some they may appear retrogressive, and
also because they may be thought by others to contradict what I have
said elsewhere, in more extensive and systematic treatment of this

The alliance which, under one form or another,--either as a naval
league, according to Sir George, or as a formal treaty, according to
Mr. White,--is advocated by both writers, looks ultimately and chiefly
to the contingency of war. True, a leading feature of either proposal
is to promote good-will and avert causes of dissension between the two
contracting parties; but even this object is sought largely in order
that they may stand by each other firmly in case of difficulty with
other states. Thus even war may be averted more surely; but, should it
come, it would find the two united upon the ocean, consequently
all-powerful there, and so possessors of that mastership of the
general situation which the sea always has conferred upon its
unquestioned rulers. Granting the union of hearts and hands, the
supremacy, from my standpoint, logically follows. But why, then, if
supreme, concede to an enemy immunity for his commerce? "Neither Great
Britain nor America," says Sir George Clarke, though he elsewhere
qualifies the statement, "can see in the commerce of other peoples an
incentive to attack." Why not? For what purposes, primarily, do navies
exist? Surely not merely to fight one another,--to gain what Jomini
calls "the sterile glory" of fighting battles in order to win them. If
navies, as all agree, exist for the protection of commerce, it
inevitably follows that in war they must aim at depriving their enemy
of that great resource; nor is it easy to conceive what broad military
use they can subserve that at all compares with the protection and
destruction of trade. This Sir George indeed sees, for he says
elsewhere, "Only on the principle of doing the utmost injury to an
enemy, with a view to hasten the issue of war, can commerce-destroying
be justified;" but he fails, I think, to appreciate the full
importance of this qualifying concession, and neither he nor Mr. White
seems to admit the immense importance of commerce-destroying, as such.

The mistake of both, I think, lies in not keeping clearly in
view--what both certainly perfectly understand--the difference between
the _guerre-de-course_, which is inconclusive, and commerce-destroying
(or commerce prevention) through strategic control of the sea by
powerful navies. Some nations more than others, but all maritime
nations more or less, depend for their prosperity upon maritime
commerce, and probably upon it more than upon any other single factor.
Either under their own flag or that of a neutral, either by foreign
trade or coasting trade, the sea is the greatest of boons to such a
state; and under every form its sea-borne trade is at the mercy of a
foe decisively superior.

Is it, then, to be expected that such foe will forego such
advantage,--will insist upon spending blood and money in fighting, or
money in the vain effort of maintaining a fleet which, having nothing
to fight, also keeps its hands off such an obvious means of crippling
the opponent and forcing him out of his ports? Great Britain's navy,
in the French wars, not only protected her own commerce, but also
annihilated that of the enemy; and both conditions--not one
alone--were essential to her triumph.

It is because Great Britain's sea power, though still superior, has
declined relatively to that of other states, and is no longer supreme,
that she has been induced to concede to neutrals the principle that
the flag covers the goods. It is a concession wrung from relative
weakness--or possibly from a mistaken humanitarianism; but, to
whatever due, it is all to the profit of the neutral and to the loss
of the stronger belligerent. The only justification, in policy, for
its yielding by the latter, is that she can no longer, as formerly,
bear the additional burden of hostility, if the neutral should ally
himself to the enemy. I have on another occasion said that the
principle that the flag covers the goods is forever secured--meaning
thereby that, so far as present indications go, no one power would be
strong enough at sea to maintain the contrary by arms.

In the same way it may be asserted quite confidently that the
concession of immunity to what is unthinkingly called the "private
property" of an enemy on the sea, will never be conceded by a nation
or alliance confident in its own sea power. It has been the dream of
the weaker sea belligerents in all ages; and their arguments for it,
at the first glance plausible, are very proper to urge from their
point of view. That arch-robber, the first Napoleon, who so
remorselessly and exhaustively carried the principle of war sustaining
war to its utmost logical sequence, and even in peace scrupled not to
quarter his armies on subject countries, maintaining them on what,
after all, was simply private property of foreigners,--even he waxes
quite eloquent, and superficially most convincing, as he compares the
seizure of goods at sea, so fatal to his empire, to the seizure of a
wagon travelling an inland country road.

In all these contentions there lies, beneath the surface plausibility,
not so much a confusion of thought as a failure to recognize an
essential difference of conditions. Even on shore the protection of
private property rests upon the simple principle that injury is not to
be wanton,--that it is not to be inflicted when the end to be attained
is trivial, or largely disproportionate to the suffering caused. For
this reason personal property, not embarked in commercial venture, is
respected in civilized maritime war. Conversely, as we all know, the
rule on land is by no means invariable, and private property receives
scant consideration when its appropriation or destruction serves the
purposes of an enemy. The man who trudges the highway, cudgel in hand,
may claim for his cudgel all the sacredness with which civilization
invests property; but if he use it to break his neighbor's head, the
respect for his property, as such, quickly disappears. Now, private
property borne upon the seas is engaged in promoting, in the most
vital manner, the strength and resources of the nation by which it is
handled. When that nation becomes belligerent, the private property,
so called, borne upon the seas, is sustaining the well-being and
endurance of the nation at war, and consequently is injuring the
opponent, to an extent exceeding all other sources of national power.
In these days of war correspondents, most of us are familiar with the
idea of the dependence of an army upon its communications, and we
know, vaguely perhaps, but still we know, that to threaten or harm the
communications of an army is one of the most common and effective
devices of strategy. Why? Because severed from its base an army
languishes and dies, and when threatened with such an evil it must
fight at whatever disadvantage. Well, is it not clear that maritime
commerce occupies, to the power of a maritime state, the precise
nourishing function that the communications of an army supply to the
army? Blows at commerce are blows at the communications of the state;
they intercept its nourishment, they starve its life, they cut the
roots of its power, the sinews of its war. While war remains a factor,
a sad but inevitable factor, of our history, it is a fond hope that
commerce can be exempt from its operations, because in very truth
blows against commerce are the most deadly that can be struck; nor is
there any other among the proposed uses of a navy, as for instance the
bombardment of seaport towns, which is not at once more cruel and less
scientific. Blockade such as that enforced by the United States Navy
during the Civil War, is evidently only a special phase of
commerce-destroying; yet how immense--nay, decisive--its results!

It is only when effort is frittered away in the feeble dissemination
of the _guerre-de-course_, instead of being concentrated in a great
combination to control the sea, that commerce-destroying justly incurs
the reproach of misdirected effort. It is a fair deduction from
analogy, that two contending armies might as well agree to respect
each other's communications, as two belligerent states to guarantee
immunity to hostile commerce.


_June, 1895._

That the United States Navy within the last dozen years should have
been recast almost wholly, upon more modern lines, is not, in itself
alone, a fact that should cause comment, or give rise to questions
about its future career or sphere of action. If this country needs, or
ever shall need, a navy at all, indisputably in 1883 the hour had come
when the time-worn hulks of that day, mostly the honored but
superannuated survivors of the civil war, should drop out of the
ranks, submit to well-earned retirement or inevitable dissolution, and
allow their places to be taken by other vessels, capable of performing
the duties to which they themselves were no longer adequate.

It is therefore unlikely that there underlay this re-creation of the
navy--for such in truth it was--any more recondite cause than the
urgent necessity of possessing tools wholly fit for the work which
war-ships are called upon to do. The thing had to be done, if the
national fleet was to be other than an impotent parody of naval force,
a costly effigy of straw. But, concurrently with the process of
rebuilding, there has been concentrated upon the development of the
new service a degree of attention, greater than can be attributed even
to the voracious curiosity of this age of newsmongering and of
interviewers. This attention in some quarters is undisguisedly
reluctant and hostile, in others not only friendly but expectant, in
both cases betraying a latent impression that there is, between the
appearance of the new-comer and the era upon which we now are
entering, something in common. If such coincidence there be, however,
it is indicative not of a deliberate purpose, but of a commencing
change of conditions, economical and political, throughout the world,
with which sea power, in the broad sense of the phrase, will be
associated closely; not, indeed, as the cause, nor even chiefly as a
result, but rather as the leading characteristic of activities which
shall cease to be mainly internal, and shall occupy themselves with
the wider interests that concern the relations of states to the world
at large. And it is just at this point that the opposing lines of
feeling divide. Those who hold that our political interests are
confined to matters within our own borders, and are unwilling to admit
that circumstances may compel us in the future to political action
without them, look with dislike and suspicion upon the growth of a
body whose very existence indicates that nations have international
duties as well as international rights, and that international
complications will arise from which we can no more escape than the
states which have preceded us in history, or those contemporary with
us. Others, on the contrary, regarding the conditions and signs of
these times, and the extra-territorial activities in which foreign
states have embarked so restlessly and widely, feel that the nation,
however greatly against its wish, may become involved in controversies
not unlike those which in the middle of the century caused very
serious friction, but which the generation that saw the century open
would have thought too remote for its concern, and certainly wholly
beyond its power to influence.

Religious creeds, dealing with eternal verities, may be susceptible of
a certain permanency of statement; yet even here we in this day have
witnessed the embarrassments of some religious bodies, arising from a
traditional adherence to merely human formulas, which reflect views of
the truth as it appeared to the men who framed them in the distant
past. But political creeds, dealing as they do chiefly with the
transient and shifting conditions of a world which is passing away
continually, can claim no fixity of allegiance, except where they
express, not the policy of a day, but the unchanging dictates of
righteousness. And inasmuch as the path of ideal righteousness is not
always plain nor always practicable; as expediency, policy, the choice
of the lesser evil, must control at times; as nations, like men, will
occasionally differ, honestly but irreconcilably, on questions of
right,--there do arise disputes where agreement cannot be reached, and
where the appeal must be made to force, that final factor which
underlies the security of civil society even more than it affects the
relations of states. The well-balanced faculties of Washington saw
this in his day with absolute clearness. Jefferson either would not or
could not. That there should be no navy was a cardinal prepossession
of his political thought, born of an exaggerated fear of organized
military force as a political, factor. Though possessed with a passion
for annexation which dominated much of his political action, he
prescribed as the limit of the country's geographical expansion the
line beyond which it would entail the maintenance of a navy. Yet fate,
ironical here as elsewhere in his administration, compelled the
recognition that, unless a policy of total seclusion is adopted,--if
even then,--it is not necessary to acquire territory beyond sea in
order to undergo serious international complications, which could have
been avoided much more easily had there been an imposing armed
shipping to throw into the scale of the nation's argument, and to
compel the adversary to recognize the impolicy of his course as well
as what the United States then claimed to be its wrongfulness.

The difference of conditions between the United States of to-day and
of the beginning of this century illustrates aptly how necessary it is
to avoid implicit acceptance of precedents, crystallized into maxims,
and to seek for the quickening principle which justified, wholly or in
part, the policy of one generation, but whose application may insure a
very different course of action in a succeeding age. When the century
opened, the United States was not only a continental power, as she now
is, but she was one of several, of nearly equal strength as far as
North America was concerned, with all of whom she had differences
arising out of conflicting interests, and with whom, moreover, she was
in direct geographical contact,--a condition which has been recognized
usually as entailing peculiar proneness to political friction; for,
while the interests of two nations may clash in quarters of the world
remote from either, there is both greater frequency and greater
bitterness when matters of dispute exist near at home, and especially
along an artificial boundary, where the inhabitants of each are
directly in contact with the causes of the irritation. It was
therefore the natural and proper aim of the government of that day to
abolish the sources of difficulty, by bringing all the territory in
question under our own control, if it could be done by fair means. We
consequently entered upon a course of action precisely such as a
European continental state would have followed under like
circumstances. In order to get possession of the territory in which
our interests were involved, we bargained and manoeuvred and
threatened; and although Jefferson's methods were peaceful enough, few
will be inclined to claim that they were marked by excess of
scrupulousness, or even of adherence to his own political convictions.
From the highly moral standpoint, the acquisition of Louisiana under
the actual conditions--being the purchase from a government which had
no right to sell, in defiance of the remonstrance addressed to us by
the power who had ceded the territory upon the express condition that
it should not so be sold, but which was too weak to enforce its just
reclamation against both Napoleon and ourselves--reduces itself pretty
much to a choice between overreaching and violence, as the less
repulsive means of compassing an end in itself both desirable and
proper; nor does the attempt, by strained construction, to wrest West
Florida into the bargain give a higher tone to the transaction. As a
matter of policy, however, there is no doubt that our government was
most wise; and the transfer, as well as the incorporation, of the
territory was facilitated by the meagreness of the population that
went with the soil. With all our love of freedom, it is not likely
that many qualms were felt as to the political inclinations of the
people concerning their transfer of allegiance. In questions of great
import to nations or to the world, the wishes, or interests, or
technical rights, of minorities must yield, and there is not
necessarily any more injustice in this than in their yielding to a
majority at the polls.

While the need of continental expansion pressed thus heavily upon the
statesmen of Jefferson's era, questions relating to more distant
interests were very properly postponed. At the time that matters of
such immediate importance were pending, to enter willingly upon the
consideration of subjects our concern in which was more remote, either
in time or place, would have entailed a dissemination of attention and
of power that is as greatly to be deprecated in statesmanship as it is
in the operations of war. Still, while the government of the day would
gladly have avoided such complications, it found, as have the
statesmen of all times, that if external interests exist, whatsoever
their character, they cannot be ignored, nor can the measures which
prudence dictates for their protection be neglected with safety.
Without political ambitions outside the continent, the commercial
enterprise of the people brought our interests into violent antagonism
with clear, unmistakable, and vital interests of foreign belligerent
states; for we shall sorely misread the lessons of 1812, and of the
events which led to it, if we fail to see that the questions in
dispute involved issues more immediately vital to Great Britain, in
her then desperate struggle, than they were to ourselves, and that the
great majority of her statesmen and people, of both parties, so
regarded them. The attempt of our government to temporize with the
difficulty, to overcome violence by means of peaceable coercion,
instead of meeting it by the creation of a naval force so strong as to
be a factor of consideration in the international situation, led us
into an avoidable war.

The conditions which now constitute the political situation of the
United States, relatively to the world at large, are fundamentally
different from those that obtained at the beginning of the century. It
is not a mere question of greater growth, of bigger size. It is not
only that we are larger, stronger, have, as it were, reached our
majority, and are able to go out into the world. That alone would be a
difference of degree, not of kind. The great difference between the
past and the present is that we then, as regards close contact with
the power of the chief nations of the world, were really in a state of
political isolation which no longer exists. This arose from our
geographical position--reinforced by the slowness and uncertainty of
the existing means of intercommunication--and yet more from the grave
preoccupation of foreign statesmen with questions of unprecedented and
ominous importance upon the continent of Europe. A policy of isolation
was for us then practicable,--though even then only partially. It was
expedient, also, because we were weak, and in order to allow the
individuality of the nation time to accentuate itself. Save the
questions connected with the navigation of the Mississippi, collision
with other peoples was only likely to arise, and actually did arise,
from going beyond our own borders in search of trade. The reasons now
evoked by some against our political action outside our own borders
might have been used then with equal appositeness against our
commercial enterprises. Let us stay at home, or we shall get into
trouble. Jefferson, in truth, averse in principle to commerce as to
war, was happily logical in his embargo system. It not only punished
the foreigner and diminished the danger of international
complications, but it kept our own ships out of harm's way; and if it
did destroy trade, and cause the grass to grow in the streets of New
York, the incident, if inconvenient, had its compensations, by
repressing hazardous external activities.

Few now, of course, would look with composure upon a policy, whatever
its ground, which contemplated the peaceable seclusion of this nation
from its principal lines of commerce. In 1807, however, a great party
accepted the alternative rather than fight, or even than create a
force which might entail war, although more probably it would have
prevented it. But would it be more prudent now to ignore the fact that
we are no longer--however much we may regret it--in a position of
insignificance or isolation, political or geographical, in any way
resembling the times of Jefferson, and that from the changed
conditions may result to us a dilemma similar to that which confronted
him and his supporters? Not only have we grown,--that is a
detail,--but the face of the world is changed, economically and
politically. The sea, now as always the great means of communication
between nations, is traversed with a rapidity and a certainty that
have minimized distances. Events which under former conditions would
have been distant and of small concern, now happen at our doors and
closely affect us. Proximity, as has been noted, is a fruitful source
of political friction, but proximity is the characteristic of the age.
The world has grown smaller. Positions formerly distant have become to
us of vital importance from their nearness. But, while distances have
shortened, they remain for us water distances, and, however short, for
political influence they must be traversed in the last resort by a
navy, the indispensable instrument by which, when emergencies arise,
the nation can project its power beyond its own shore-line.

Whatever seeming justification, therefore, there may have been in the
transient conditions of his own day for Jefferson's dictum concerning
a navy, rested upon a state of things that no longer obtains, and even
then soon passed away. The War of 1812 demonstrated the usefulness of
a navy,--not, indeed, by the admirable but utterly unavailing
single-ship victories that illustrated its course, but by the
prostration into which our seaboard and external communications fell,
through the lack of a navy at all proportionate to the country's needs
and exposure. The navy doubtless reaped honor in that brilliant sea
struggle, but the honor was its own alone; only discredit accrued to
the statesmen who, with such men to serve them, none the less left the
country open to the humiliation of its harried coasts and blasted
commerce. Never was there a more lustrous example of what Jomini calls
"the sterile glory of fighting battles merely to win them." Except for
the prestige which at last awoke the country to the high efficiency of
the petty force we called our navy, and showed what the sea might be
to us, never was blood spilled more uselessly than in the frigate and
sloop actions of that day. They presented no analogy to the outpost
and reconnoissance fighting, to the detached services, that are not
only inevitable but invaluable, in maintaining the _morale_ of a
military organization in campaign. They were simply scattered efforts,
without relation either to one another or to any main body whatsoever,
capable of affecting seriously the issues of war, or, indeed, to any
plan of operations worthy of the name.

Not very long after the War of 1812, within the space of two
administrations, there came another incident, epoch-making in the
history of our external policy, and of vital bearing on the navy, in
the enunciation of the Monroe doctrine. That pronouncement has been
curiously warped at times from its original scope and purpose. In its
name have been put forth theories so much at odds with the relations
of states, as hitherto understood, that, if they be maintained
seriously, it is desirable in the interests of exact definition that
their supporters advance some other name for them. It is not necessary
to attribute finality to the Monroe doctrine, any more than to any
other political dogma, in order to deprecate the application of the
phrase to propositions that override or transcend it. We should beware
of being misled by names, and especially where such error may induce a
popular belief that a foreign state is outraging wilfully a principle
to the defence of which the country is committed. We have been
committed to the Monroe doctrine itself, not perhaps by any such
formal assumption of obligations as cannot be evaded, but by certain
precedents, and by a general attitude, upon the whole consistently
maintained, from which we cannot recede silently without risk of
national mortification. If seriously challenged, as in Mexico by the
third Napoleon, we should hardly decline to emulate the sentiments so
nobly expressed by the British government, when, in response to the
emperors of Russia and France, it declined to abandon the struggling
Spanish patriots to the government set over them by Napoleon: "To
Spain his Majesty is not bound by any formal instrument; but his
Majesty has, in the face of the world, contracted with that nation
engagements not less sacred, and not less binding upon his Majesty's
mind, than the most solemn treaties." We may have to accept also
certain corollaries which may appear naturally to result from the
Monroe doctrine, but we are by no means committed to some propositions
which lately have been tallied with its name. Those propositions
possibly embody a sound policy, more applicable to present conditions
than the Monroe doctrine itself, and therefore destined to succeed it;
but they are not the same thing. There is, however, something in
common between it and them. Reduced to its barest statement, and
stripped of all deductions, natural or forced, the Monroe doctrine, if
it were not a mere political abstraction, formulated an idea to which
in the last resort effect could be given only through the
instrumentality of a navy; for the gist of it, the kernel of the
truth, was that the country had at that time distant interests on the
land, political interests of a high order in the destiny of foreign
territory, of which a distinguishing characteristic was that they
could be assured only by sea.

Like most stages in a nation's progress, the Monroe doctrine, though
elicited by a particular political incident, was not an isolated step
unrelated to the past, but a development. It had its antecedents in
feelings which arose before our War of Independence, and which in
1778, though we were then in deadly need of the French alliance, found
expression in the stipulation that France should not attempt to regain
Canada. Even then, and also in 1783, the same jealousy did not extend
to the Floridas, which at the latter date were ceded by Great Britain
to Spain; and we expressly acquiesced in the conquest of the British
West India Islands by our allies. From that time to 1815 no
remonstrance was made against the transfer of territories in the West
Indies and Caribbean Sea from one belligerent to another--an
indifference which scarcely would be shown at the present time, even
though the position immediately involved were intrinsically of trivial
importance; for the question at stake would be one of principle, of
consequences, far reaching as Hampden's tribute of ship-money.

It is beyond the professional province of a naval officer to inquire
how far the Monroe doctrine itself would logically carry us, or how
far it may be developed, now or hereafter, by the recognition and
statement of further national interests, thereby formulating another
and wider view of the necessary range of our political influence. It
is sufficient to quote its enunciation as a fact, and to note that it
was the expression of a great national interest, not merely of a
popular sympathy with South American revolutionists; for, had it been
the latter, it would doubtless have proved as inoperative and
evanescent as declarations arising from such emotions commonly are.
From generation to generation we have been much stirred by the
sufferings of Greeks, or Bulgarians, or Armenians, at the hands of
Turkey; but, not being ourselves injuriously affected, our feelings
have not passed into acts, and for that very reason have been
ephemeral. No more than other nations are we exempt from the profound
truth enunciated by Washington--seared into his own consciousness by
the bitter futilities of the French alliance in 1778 and the following
years, and by the extravagant demands based upon it by the Directory
during his Presidential term--that it is absurd to expect governments
to act upon disinterested motives. It is not as an utterance of
passing concern, benevolent or selfish, but because it voiced an
enduring principle of necessary self-interest, that the Monroe
doctrine has retained its vitality, and has been made so easily to do
duty as the expression of intuitive national sensitiveness to
occurrences of various kinds in regions beyond the sea. At its
christening the principle was directed against an apprehended
intervention in American affairs, which depended not upon actual
European concern in the territory involved, but upon a purely
political arrangement between certain great powers, itself the result
of ideas at the time moribund. In its first application, therefore, it
was a confession that danger of European complications did exist,
under conditions far less provocative of real European interest than
those which now obtain and are continually growing. Its subsequent
applications have been many and various, and the incidents giving rise
to them have been increasingly important, culminating up to the
present in the growth of the United States to be a great Pacific
power, and in her probable dependence in the near future upon an
Isthmian canal for the freest and most copious intercourse between her
two ocean seaboards. In the elasticity and flexibleness with which the
dogma thus has accommodated itself to varying conditions, rather than
in the strict wording of the original statement, is to be seen the
essential characteristic of a living principle--the recognition,
namely, that not merely the interests of individual citizens, but the
interests of the United States as a nation, are bound up with regions
beyond the sea, not part of our own political domain, in which
therefore, under some imaginable circumstances, we may be forced to
take action.

It is important to recognize this, for it will help clear away the
error from a somewhat misleading statement frequently made,--that the
United States needs a navy for defence only, adding often,
explanatorily, for the defence of our own coasts. Now in a certain
sense we all want a navy for defence only. It is to be hoped that the
United States will never seek war except for the defence of her
rights, her obligations, or her necessary interests. In that sense our
policy may always be defensive only, although it may compel us at
times to steps justified rather by expediency--the choice of the
lesser evil--than by incontrovertible right. But if we have interests
beyond sea which a navy may have to protect, it plainly follows that
the navy has more to do, even in war, than to defend the coast; and it
must be added as a received military axiom that war, however defensive
in moral character, must be waged aggressively if it is to hope for

For national security, the correlative of a national principle firmly
held and distinctly avowed is, not only the will, but the power to
enforce it. The clear expression of national purpose, accompanied by
evident and adequate means to carry it into effect, is the surest
safeguard against war, provided always that the national contention is
maintained with a candid and courteous consideration of the rights and
susceptibilities of other states. On the other hand, no condition is
more hazardous than that of a dormant popular feeling, liable to be
roused into action by a moment of passion, such as that which swept
over the North when the flag was fired upon at Sumter, but behind
which lies no organized power for action. It is on the score of due
preparation for such an ultimate contingency that nations, and
especially free nations, are most often deficient. Yet, if wanting in
definiteness of foresight and persistency of action, owing to the
inevitable frequency of change in the governments that represent them,
democracies seem in compensation to be gifted with an instinct, the
result perhaps of the free and rapid interchange of thought by which
they are characterized, that intuitively and unconsciously assimilates
political truths, and prepares in part for political action before the
time for action has come. That the mass of United States citizens do
not realize understandingly that the nation has vital political
interests beyond the sea is probably true; still more likely is it
that they are not tracing any connection between them and the
reconstruction of the navy. Yet the interests exist, and the navy is
growing; and in the latter fact is the best surety that no breach of
peace will ensue from the maintenance of the former.

It is, not, then the indication of a formal political purpose, far
less of anything like a threat, that is, from my point of view, to be
recognized in the recent development of the navy. Nations, as a rule,
do not move with the foresight and the fixed plan which distinguish a
very few individuals of the human race. They do not practise on the
pistol-range before sending a challenge; if they did, wars would be
fewer, as is proved by the present long-continued armed peace in
Europe. Gradually and imperceptibly the popular feeling, which
underlies most lasting national movements, is aroused and swayed by
incidents, often trivial, but of the same general type, whose
recurrence gradually moulds public opinion and evokes national action,
until at last there issues that settled public conviction which alone,
in a free state, deserves the name of national policy. What the origin
of those particular events whose interaction establishes a strong
political current in a particular direction, it is perhaps
unprofitable to inquire. Some will see in the chain of cause and
effect only a chapter of accidents, presenting an interesting
philosophical study, and nothing more; others, equally persuaded that
nations do not effectively shape their mission in the world, will find
in them the ordering of a Divine ruler, who does not permit the
individual or the nation to escape its due share of the world's
burdens. But, however explained, it is a common experience of history
that in the gradual ripening of events there comes often suddenly and
unexpectedly the emergency, the call for action, to maintain the
nation's contention. That there is an increased disposition on the
part of civilized countries to deal with such cases by ordinary
diplomatic discussion and mutual concession can be gratefully
acknowledged; but that such dispositions are not always sufficient to
reach a peaceable solution is equally an indisputable teaching of the
recent past. Popular emotion, once fairly roused, sweeps away the
barriers of calm deliberation, and is deaf to the voice of reason.
That the consideration of relative power enters for much in the
diplomatic settlement of international difficulties is also certain,
just as that it goes for much in the ordering of individual careers.
"Can," as well as "will," plays a large share in the decisions of

Like each man and woman, no state lives to itself alone, in a
political seclusion resembling the physical isolation which so long
was the ideal of China and Japan. All, whether they will or no, are
members of a community, larger or, smaller; and more and more those of
the European family to which we racially belong are touching each
other throughout the world, with consequent friction of varying
degree. That the greater rapidity of communication afforded by steam
has wrought, in the influence of sea power over the face of the globe,
an extension that is multiplying the points of contact and emphasizing
the importance of navies, is a fact, the intelligent appreciation of
which is daily more and more manifest in the periodical literature of
Europe, and is further shown by the growing stress laid upon that arm
of military strength by foreign governments; while the mutual
preparation of the armies on the European continent, and the fairly
settled territorial conditions, make each state yearly more wary of
initiating a contest, and thus entail a political quiescence there,
except in the internal affairs of each country. The field of external
action for the great European states is now the world, and it is
hardly doubtful that their struggles, unaccompanied as yet by actual
clash of arms, are even under that condition drawing nearer to
ourselves. Coincidently with our own extension to the Pacific Ocean,
which for so long had a good international claim to its name, that sea
has become more and more the scene of political development, of
commercial activities and rivalries, in which all the great powers,
ourselves included, have a share. Through these causes Central and
Caribbean America, now intrinsically unimportant, are brought in turn
into great prominence, as constituting the gateway between the
Atlantic and Pacific when the Isthmian canal shall have been made, and
as guarding the approaches to it. The appearance of Japan as a strong
ambitious state, resting on solid political and military foundations,
but which scarcely has reached yet a condition of equilibrium in
international standing, has fairly startled the world; and it is a
striking illustration of the somewhat sudden nearness and unforeseen
relations into which modern states are brought, that the Hawaiian
Islands, so interesting from the international point of view to the
countries of European civilization, are occupied largely by Japanese
and Chinese.

In all these questions we have a stake, reluctantly it may be, but
necessarily, for our evident interests are involved, in some instances
directly, in others by very probable implication. Under existing
conditions, the opinion that we can keep clear indefinitely of
embarrassing problems is hardly tenable; while war between two foreign
states, which in the uncertainties of the international situation
throughout the world may break out at any time, will increase greatly
the occasions of possible collision with the belligerent countries,
and the consequent perplexities of our statesmen seeking to avoid
entanglement and to maintain neutrality.

Although peace is not only the avowed but for the most part the actual
desire of European governments, they profess no such aversion to
distant political enterprises and colonial acquisitions as we by
tradition have learned to do. On the contrary, their committal to such
divergent enlargements of the national activities and influence is one
of the most pregnant facts of our time, the more so that their course
is marked in the case of each state by a persistence of the same
national traits that characterized the great era of colonization,
which followed the termination of the religious wars in Europe, and
led to the world-wide contests of the eighteenth century. In one
nation the action is mainly political,--that of a government pushed,
by long-standing tradition and by its passion for administration, to
extend the sphere of its operations so as to acquire a greater field
in which to organize and dominate, somewhat regardless of economical
advantage. In another the impulse comes from the restless, ubiquitous
energy of the individual citizens, singly or in companies, moved
primarily by the desire of gain, but carrying ever with them,
subordinate only to the commercial aim, the irresistible tendency of
the race to rule as well as to trade, and dragging the home government
to recognize and to assume the consequences of their enterprise. Yet
again there is the movement whose motive is throughout mainly private
and mercantile, in which the individual seeks wealth only, with little
or no political ambition, and where the government intervenes chiefly
that it may retain control of its subjects in regions where but for
such intervention they would become estranged from it. But, however
diverse the modes of operation, all have a common characteristic, in
that they bear the stamp of the national genius,--a proof that the
various impulses are not artificial, but natural, and that they
therefore will continue until an adjustment is reached.

What the process will be, and what the conclusion, it is impossible to
foresee; but that friction at times has been very great, and matters
dangerously near passing from the communications of cabinets to the
tempers of the peoples, is sufficiently known. If, on the one hand,
some look upon this as a lesson to us to keep clear of similar
adventures, on the other hand it gives a warning that not only do
causes of offence exist which may result at an unforeseen moment in a
rupture extending to many parts of the world, but also that there is a
spirit abroad which yet may challenge our claim to exclude its action
and interference in any quarter, unless it finds us prepared there in
adequate strength to forbid it, or to exercise our own. More and more
civilized man is needing and seeking ground to occupy, room over which
to expand and in which to live. Like all natural forces, the impulse
takes the direction of least resistance, but when in its course it
comes upon some region rich in possibilities, but unfruitful through
the incapacity or negligence of those who dwell therein, the
incompetent race or system will go down, as the inferior race ever has
fallen back and disappeared before the persistent impact of the
superior. The recent and familiar instance of Egypt is entirely in
point. The continuance of the existing system--if it can be called
such--had become impossible, not because of the native Egyptians, who
had endured the like for ages, but because there were involved therein
the interests of several European states, of which two principally
were concerned by present material interest and traditional rivalry.
Of these one, and that the one most directly affected, refused to take
part in the proposed interference, with the result that this was not
abandoned, but carried out solely by the other, which remains in
political and administrative control of the country. Whether the
original enterprise or the continued presence of Great Britain in
Egypt is entirely clear of technical wrongs, open to the criticism of
the pure moralist, is as little to the point as the morality of an
earthquake; the general action was justified by broad considerations
of moral expediency, being to the benefit of the world at large, and
of the people of Egypt in particular--however they might have voted in
the matter.

But what is chiefly instructive in this occurrence is the
inevitableness, which it shares in common with the great majority of
cases where civilized and highly organized peoples have trespassed
upon the technical rights of possession of the previous occupants of
the land--of which our own dealings with the American Indian afford
another example. The inalienable rights of the individual are entitled
to a respect which they unfortunately do not always get; but there is
no inalienable right in any community to control the use of a region
when it does so to the detriment of the world at large, of its
neighbors in particular, or even at times of its own subjects.
Witness, for example, the present angry resistance of the Arabs at
Jiddah to the remedying of a condition of things which threatens to
propagate a deadly disease far and wide, beyond the locality by which
it is engendered; or consider the horrible conditions under which the
Armenian subjects of Turkey have lived and are living. When such
conditions obtain, they can be prolonged only by the general
indifference or mutual jealousies of the other peoples concerned--as
in the instance of Turkey--or because there is sufficient force to
perpetuate the misrule, in which case the right is inalienable only
until its misuse brings ruin, or until a stronger force appears to
dispossess it. It is because so much of the world still remains in the
possession of the savage, or of states whose imperfect development,
political or economical, does not enable them to realize for the
general use nearly the result of which the territory is capable, while
at the same time the redundant energies of civilized states, both
government and peoples, are finding lack of openings and scantiness of
livelihood at home, that there now obtains a condition of aggressive
restlessness with which all have to reckon.

That the United States does not now share this tendency is entirely
evident. Neither her government nor her people are affected by it to
any great extent. But the force of circumstances has imposed upon her
the necessity, recognized with practical unanimity by her people, of
insuring to the weaker states of America, although of racial and
political antecedents different from her own, freedom to develop
politically along their own lines and according to their own
capacities, without interference in that respect from governments
foreign to these continents. The duty is self-assumed; and resting, as
it does, not upon political philanthropy, but simply upon our own
proximate interests as affected by such foreign interference, has
towards others rather the nature of a right than a duty. But, from
either point of view, the facility with which the claim has been
allowed heretofore by the great powers has been due partly to the lack
of pressing importance in the questions that have arisen, and partly
to the great latent strength of our nation, which was an argument more
than adequate to support contentions involving matters of no greater
immediate moment, for example, than that of the Honduras Bay Islands
or of the Mosquito Coast. Great Britain there yielded, it is true,
though reluctantly and slowly; and it is also true that, so far as
organized force is concerned, she could have destroyed our navy then
existing and otherwise have injured us greatly; but the substantial
importance of the question, though real, was remote in the future,
and, as it was, she made a political bargain which was more to her
advantage than ours. But while our claim thus far has received a tacit
acquiescence, it remains to be seen whether it will continue to
command the same if the states whose political freedom of action we
assert make no more decided advance towards political stability than
several of them have done yet, and if our own organized naval force
remains as slender, comparatively, as it once was, and even yet is. It
is probably safe to say that an undertaking like that of Great Britain
in Egypt, if attempted in this hemisphere by a non-American state,
would not be tolerated by us if able to prevent it; but it is
conceivable that the moral force of our contention might be weakened,
in the view of an opponent, by attendant circumstances, in which case
our physical power to support it should be open to no doubt.

That we shall seek to secure the peaceable solution of each difficulty
as it arises is attested by our whole history, and by the disposition
of our people; but to do so, whatever the steps taken in any
particular case, will bring us into new political relations and may
entail serious disputes with other states. In maintaining the justest
policy, the most reasonable influence, one of the political elements,
long dominant, and still one of the most essential, is military
strength--in the broad sense of the word "military," which includes
naval as well--not merely potential, which our own is, but organized
and developed, which our own as yet is not. We wisely quote
Washington's warning against entangling alliances, but too readily
forget his teaching about preparation for war. The progress of the
world from age to age, in its ever-changing manifestations, is a great
political drama, possessing a unity, doubtless, in its general
development, but in which, as act follows act, one situation alone can
engage, at one time, the attention of the actors. Of this drama war is
simply a violent and tumultuous political incident. A navy, therefore,
whose primary sphere of action is war, is, in the last analysis and
from the least misleading point of view, a political factor of the
utmost importance in international affairs, one more often deterrent
than irritant. It is in that light, according to the conditions of the
age and of the nation, that it asks and deserves the appreciation of
the state, and that it should be developed in proportion to the
reasonable possibilities of the political future.


_December, 1896._

The problem of preparation for war in modern times is both extensive
and complicated. As in the construction of the individual ship, where
the attempt to reconcile conflicting requirements has resulted,
according to a common expression, in a compromise, the most dubious of
all military solutions,--giving something to all, and all to none,--so
preparation for war involves many conditions, often contradictory one
to another, at times almost irreconcilable. To satisfy all of these
passes the ingenuity of the national Treasury, powerless to give the
whole of what is demanded by the representatives of the different
elements, which, in duly ordered proportion, constitute a complete
scheme of national military policy, whether for offence or defence.
Unable to satisfy all, and too often equally unable to say, frankly,
"This one is chief; to it you others must yield, except so far as you
contribute to its greatest efficiency," either the pendulum of the
government's will swings from one extreme to the other, or, in the
attempt to be fair all round, all alike receive less than they ask,
and for their theoretical completeness require. In other words, the
contents of the national purse are distributed, instead of being
concentrated upon a leading conception, adopted after due
deliberation, and maintained with conviction.

The creation of material for war, under modern conditions, requires a
length of time which does not permit the postponement of it to the
hour of impending hostilities. To put into the water a first-class
battle-ship, fully armored, within a year after the laying of her
keel, as has been done latterly in England, is justly considered an
extraordinary exhibition of the nation's resources for naval
shipbuilding; and there yet remained to be done the placing of her
battery, and many other matters of principal detail essential to her
readiness for sea. This time certainly would not be less for
ourselves, doing our utmost.

War is simply a political movement, though violent and exceptional in
its character. However sudden the occasion from which it arises, it
results from antecedent conditions, the general tendency of which
should be manifest long before to the statesmen of a nation, and to at
least the reflective portion of the people. In such anticipation, such
forethought, as in the affairs of common life, lies the best hope of
the best solution,--peace by ordinary diplomatic action; peace by
timely agreement, while men's heads are cool, and the crisis of fever
has not been reached by the inflammatory utterances of an unscrupulous
press, to which agitated public apprehension means increase of
circulation. But while the maintenance of peace by sagacious prevision
is the laurel of the statesman, which, in failing to achieve except by
force, he takes from his own brow and gives to the warrior, it is none
the less a necessary part of his official competence to recognize that
in public disputes, as in private, there is not uncommonly on both
sides an element of right, real or really believed, which prevents
either party from yielding, and that it is better for men to fight
than, for the sake of peace, to refuse to support their convictions of
justice. How deplorable the war between the North and South! but more
deplorable by far had it been that either had flinched from the
maintenance of what it believed to be fundamental right. On questions
of merely material interest men may yield; on matters of principle
they may be honestly in the wrong; but a conviction of right, even
though mistaken, if yielded without contention, entails a
deterioration of character, except in the presence of force
demonstrably irresistible--and sometimes even then. Death before
dishonor is a phrase which at times has been abused infamously, but it
none the less contains a vital truth.

To provide a force adequate to maintain the nation's cause, and to
insure its readiness for immediate action in case of necessity, are
the responsibility of the government of a state, in its legislative
and executive functions. Such a force is a necessary outcome of the
political conditions which affect, or, as can be foreseen, probably
may affect, the international relations of the country. Its existence
at all and its size are, or should be, the reflection of the national
consciousness that in this, that, or the other direction lie clear
national interests--for which each generation is responsible to
futurity--or national duties, equally clear from the mere fact that
the matter lies at the door, like Lazarus at the rich man's gate. The
question of when or how action shall be taken which may result in
hostilities, is indeed a momentous one, having regard to the dire
evils of war; but it is the question of a moment, of the last moment
to which can be postponed a final determination of such tremendous
consequence. To this determination preparation for war has only this
relation: that it should be adequate to the utmost demand that then
can be made upon it, and, if possible, so imposing that it will
prevent war ensuing, upon the firm presentation of demands which the
nation believes to be just. Such a conception, so stated, implies no
more than defence,--defence of the nation's rights or of the nation's
duties, although such defence may take the shape of aggressive action,
the only safe course in war.

Logically, therefore, a nation which proposes to provide itself with a
naval or military organization adequate to its needs, must begin by
considering, not what is the largest army or navy in the world, with
the view of rivalling it, but what there is in the political status of
the world, including not only the material interests but the temper of
nations, which involves a reasonable, even though remote, prospect of
difficulties which may prove insoluble except by war. The matter,
primarily, is political in character. It is not until this political
determination has been reached that the data for even stating the
military problem are in hand; for here, as always, the military arm
waits upon and is subservient to the political interests and civil
power of the state.

It is not the most probable of dangers, but the most formidable, that
must be selected as measuring the degree of military precaution to be
embodied in the military preparations thenceforth to be maintained.
The lesser is contained in the greater; if equal to the most that can
be apprehended reasonably, the country can view with quiet eye the
existence of more imminent, but less dangerous complications. Nor
should it be denied that in estimating danger there should be a
certain sobriety of imagination, equally removed from undue confidence
and from exaggerated fears. Napoleon's caution to his marshals not to
make a picture to themselves--not to give too loose rein to fancy as
to what the enemy might do, regardless of the limitations to which
military movements are subject--applies to antecedent calculations,
like those which we are considering now, as really as to the
operations of the campaign. When British writers, realizing the
absolute dependence of their own country upon the sea, insist that the
British navy must exceed the two most formidable of its possible
opponents, they advance an argument which is worthy at least of
serious debate; but when the two is raised to three, they assume
conditions which are barely possible, but lie too far without the
limits of probability to affect practical action.

In like manner, the United States, in estimating her need of military
preparation of whatever kind, is justified in considering, not merely
the utmost force which might be brought against her by a possible
enemy, under the political circumstances most favorable to the latter,
but the limitations imposed upon an opponent's action by well-known
conditions of a permanent nature. Our only rivals in potential
military strength are the great powers of Europe. These, however,
while they have interests in the western hemisphere,--to which a
certain solidarity is imparted by their instinctive and avowed
opposition to a policy to which the United States, by an inward
compulsion apparently irresistible, becomes more and more
committed,--have elsewhere yet wider and more onerous demands upon
their attention. Since 1884 Great Britain, France, and Germany have
each acquired colonial possessions, varying in extent from one million
to two and a half million square miles,--chiefly in Africa. This
means, as is generally understood, not merely the acquisition of so
much new territory, but the perpetuation of national rivalries and
suspicions, maintaining in full vigor, in this age, the traditions of
past animosities. It means uncertainties about boundaries--that most
fruitful source of disputes when running through unexplored
wildernesses--jealousy of influence over native occupants of the soil,
fear of encroachment, unperceived till too late, and so a constant, if
silent, strife to insure national preponderance in these newly opened
regions. The colonial expansion of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries is being resumed under our eyes, bringing with it the same
train of ambitions and feelings that were exhibited then, though these
are qualified by the more orderly methods of modern days and by a
well-defined mutual apprehension,--the result of a universal
preparedness for war, the distinctive feature of our own time which
most guarantees peace.

All this reacts evidently upon Europe, the common mother-country of
these various foreign enterprises, in whose seas and lands must be
fought out any struggle springing from these remote causes, and upon
whose inhabitants chiefly must fall both the expense and the bloodshed
thence arising. To these distant burdens of disquietude--in the
assuming of which, though to an extent self-imposed, the present
writer recognizes the prevision of civilization, instinctive rather
than conscious, against the perils of the future--is to be added the
proximate and unavoidable anxiety dependent upon the conditions of
Turkey and its provinces, the logical outcome of centuries of Turkish
misrule. Deplorable as have been, and to some extent still are,
political conditions on the American continents, the New World, in the
matter of political distribution of territory and fixity of tenure, is
permanence itself, as compared with the stormy prospect confronting
the Old in its questions which will not down.

In these controversies, which range themselves under the broad heads
of colonial expansion and the Eastern question, all the larger powers
of Europe, the powers that maintain considerable armies or navies, or
both, are directly and deeply interested--except Spain. The latter
manifests no solicitude concerning the settlement of affairs in the
east of Europe, nor is she engaged in increasing her still
considerable colonial dominion. This preoccupation of the great
powers, being not factitious, but necessary,--a thing that cannot be
dismissed by an effort of the national will, because its existence
depends upon the nature of things,--is a legitimate element in the
military calculations of the United States. It cannot enter into her
diplomatic considerations, for it is her pride not to seek, from the
embarrassments of other states, advantages or concessions which she
cannot base upon the substantial justice of her demands. But, while
this is true, the United States has had in the past abundant
experience of disputes, in which, though she believed herself right,
even to the point of having a just _casus belli_, the other party has
not seemed to share the same conviction. These difficulties, chiefly,
though not solely, territorial in character, have been the natural
bequest of the colonial condition through which this hemisphere passed
on its way to its present political status. Her own view of right,
even when conceded in the end, has not approved itself at first to the
other party to the dispute. Fortunately these differences have been
mainly with Great Britain, the great and beneficent colonizer, a state
between which and ourselves a sympathy, deeper than both parties have
been ready always to admit, has continued to exist, because founded
upon common fundamental ideas of law and justice. Of this the happy
termination of the Venezuelan question is the most recent but not the
only instance.

It is sometimes said that Great Britain is the most unpopular state in
Europe. If this be so,--and many of her own people seem to accept the
fact of her political isolation, though with more or less of
regret,--is there nothing significant to us in that our attitude
towards her in the Venezuelan matter has not commanded the sympathy of
Europe, but rather the reverse? Our claim to enter, as of right, into
a dispute not originally our own, and concerning us only as one of the
American group of nations, has been rejected in no doubtful tones by
organs of public opinion which have no fondness for Great Britain.
Whether any foreign government has taken the same attitude is not
known,--probably there has been no official protest against the
apparent admission of a principle which binds nobody but the parties
to it. Do we ourselves realize that, happy as the issue of our
intervention has been, it may entail upon us greater responsibilities,
more serious action, than we have assumed before? that it amounts in
fact--if one may use a military metaphor--to occupying an advanced
position, the logical result very likely of other steps in the past,
but which nevertheless implies necessarily such organization of
strength as will enable us to hold it?

Without making a picture to ourselves, without conjuring up
extravagant contingencies, it is not difficult to detect the existence
of conditions, in which are latent elements of future disputes,
identical in principle with those through which we have passed
heretofore. Can we expect that, if unprovided with adequate military
preparation, we shall receive from other states, not imbued with our
traditional habits of political thought, and therefore less patient of
our point of view, the recognition of its essential reasonableness
which has been conceded by the government of Great Britain? The latter
has found capacity for sympathy with our attitude,--not only by long
and close contact and interlacing of interests between the two
peoples, nor yet only in a fundamental similarity of character and
institutions. Besides these, useful as they are to mutual
understanding, that government has an extensive and varied experience,
extending over centuries, of the vital importance of distant regions
to its own interests, to the interests of its people and its commerce,
or to its political prestige. It can understand and allow for a
determination not to acquiesce in the beginning or continuance of a
state of things, the tendency of which is to induce future
embarrassments,--to complicate or to endanger essential welfare. A
nation situated as Great Britain is in India and Egypt scarcely can
fail to appreciate our own sensitiveness regarding the Central
American isthmus, and the Pacific, on which we have such extensive
territory; nor is it a long step from concern about the Mediterranean,
and anxious watchfulness over the progressive occupation of its
southern shores, to an understanding of our reluctance to see the
ambitions and conflicts of another hemisphere approach, even remotely
and indirectly, the comparatively peaceful neighborhoods surrounding
the Caribbean Sea, bearing a threat of disturbance to the political
distribution of power or of territorial occupation now existing.
Whatever our interests may demand in the future may be a matter of
doubt, but it is hard to see how there can be any doubt in the mind of
a British statesman that it is our clear interest now, when all is
quiet, to see removed possibilities of trouble which might break out
at a less propitious season.

Such facility for reaching an understanding, due to experience of
difficulties, is supported strongly by a hearty desire for peace,
traditional with a commercial people who have not to reproach
themselves with any lack of resolution or tenacity in assuming and
bearing the burden of war when forced upon them. "Militarism" is not a
preponderant spirit in either Great Britain or the United States;
their commercial tendencies and their isolation concur to exempt them
from its predominance. Pugnacious, and even warlike, when aroused, the
idea of war in the abstract is abhorrent to them, because it
interferes with their leading occupations, and its demands are alien
to their habits of thought. To say that either lacks sensitiveness to
the point of honor would be to wrong them; but the point must be made
clear to them, and it will not be found in the refusal of reasonable
demands, because they involve the abandonment of positions hastily or
ignorantly assumed, nor in the mere attitude of adhering to a position
lest there may be an appearance of receding under compulsion. Napoleon
I. phrased the extreme position of militarism in the words, "If the
British ministry should intimate that there was anything the First
Consul had not done, _because he was prevented from doing it_, that
instant he would do it."

Now the United States, speaking by various organs, has said, in
language scarcely to be misunderstood, that she is resolved to resort
to force, if necessary, to prevent the territorial or political
extension of European power beyond its present geographical limits in
the American continents. In the question of a disputed boundary she
has held that this resolve--dependent upon what she conceives her
reasonable policy--required her to insist that the matter should be
submitted to arbitration. If Great Britain should see in this
political stand the expression of a reasonable national policy, she is
able, by the training and habit of her leaders, to accept it as such,
without greatly troubling over the effect upon men's opinions that may
be produced by the additional announcement that the policy is worth
fighting for, and will be fought for if necessary. It would be a
matter of course for her to fight for her just interests, if need be,
and why should not another state say the same? The point--of honor, if
you like--is not whether a nation will fight, but whether its claim is
just. Such an attitude, however, is not the spirit of "militarism,"
nor accordant with it; and in nations saturated with the military
spirit, the intimation that a policy will be supported by force raises
that sort of point of honor behind which the reasonableness of the
policy is lost to sight. It can no longer be viewed dispassionately;
it is prejudged by the threat, however mildly that be expressed. And
this is but a logical development of their institutions. The soldier,
or the state much of whose policy depends upon organized force, cannot
but resent the implication that he or it is unable or unwilling to
meet force with force. The life of soldiers and of armies is their
spirit, and that spirit receives a serious wound when it seems--even
superficially--to recoil before a threat; while with the weakening of
the military body falls an element of political strength which has no
analogue in Great Britain or the United States, the chief military
power of which must lie ever in navies, never an aggressive factor
such as armies have been.

Now, the United States has made an announcement that she will support
by force a policy which may bring her into collision with states of
military antecedents, indisposed by their interests to acquiesce in
our position, and still less willing to accept it under appearance of
threat. What preparation is necessary in case such a one is as
determined to fight against our demands as we to fight for them?

Preparation for war, rightly understood, falls under two
heads,--preparation and preparedness. The one is a question mainly of
material, and is constant in its action. The second involves an idea
of completeness. When, at a particular moment, preparations are
completed, one is prepared--not otherwise. There may have been made a
great deal of very necessary preparation for war without being
prepared. Every constituent of preparation may be behindhand, or some
elements may be perfectly ready, while others are not. In neither case
can a state be said to be prepared.

In the matter of preparation for war, one clear idea should be
absorbed first by every one who, recognizing that war is still a
possibility, desires to see his country ready. This idea is that,
however defensive in origin or in political character a war may be,
the assumption of a simple defensive in war is ruin. War, once
declared, must be waged offensively, aggressively. The enemy must not
be fended off, but smitten down. You may then spare him every
exaction, relinquish every gain; but till down he must be struck
incessantly and remorselessly.

Preparation, like most other things, is a question both of kind and of
degree, of quality and of quantity. As regards degree, the general
lines upon which it is determined have been indicated broadly in the
preceding part of this article. The measure of degree is the estimated
force which the strongest _probable_ enemy can bring against you,
allowance being made for clear drawbacks upon his total force, imposed
by his own embarrassments and responsibilities in other parts of the
world. The calculation is partly military, partly political, the
latter, however, being the dominant factor in the premises.

In kind, preparation is twofold,--defensive and offensive. The former
exists chiefly for the sake of the latter, in order that offence, the
determining factor in war, may put forth its full power, unhampered by
concern for the protection of the national interests or for its own
resources. In naval war, coast defence is the defensive factor, the
navy the offensive. Coast defence, when adequate, assures the naval
commander-in-chief that his base of operations--the dock-yards and
coal depots--is secure. It also relieves him and his government, by
the protection afforded to the chief commercial centres, from the
necessity of considering them, and so leaves the offensive arm
perfectly free.

Coast defence implies coast attack. To what attacks are coasts liable?
Two, principally,--blockade and bombardment. The latter, being the
more difficult, includes the former, as the greater does the lesser. A
fleet that can bombard can still more easily blockade. Against
bombardment the necessary precaution is gun-fire, of such power and
range that a fleet cannot lie within bombarding distance. This
condition is obtained, where surroundings permit, by advancing the
line of guns so far from the city involved that bombarding distance
can be reached only by coming under their fire. But it has been
demonstrated, and is accepted, that, owing to their rapidity of
movement,--like a flock of birds on the wing,--a fleet of ships can,
without disabling loss, pass by guns before which they could not lie.
Hence arises the necessity of arresting or delaying their progress by
blocking channels, which in modern practice is done by lines of
torpedoes. The mere moral effect of the latter is a deterrent to a
dash past,--by which, if successful, a fleet reaches the rear of the
defences, and appears immediately before the city, which then lies at
its mercy.

Coast defence, then, implies gun-power and torpedo lines placed as
described. Be it said in passing that only places of decisive
importance, commercially or militarily, need such defences. Modern
fleets cannot afford to waste ammunition in bombarding unimportant
towns,--at least when so far from their own base as they would be on
our coast. It is not so much a question of money as of frittering
their fighting strength. It would not pay.

Even coast defence, however, although essentially passive, should have
an element of offensive force, local in character, distinct from the
offensive navy, of which nevertheless it forms a part. To take the
offensive against a floating force it must itself be afloat--naval.
This offensive element of coast defence is to be found in the
torpedo-boat, in its various developments. It must be kept distinct in
idea from the sea-going fleet, although it is, of course, possible
that the two may act in concert. The war very well may take such a
turn that the sea-going navy will find its best preparation for
initiating an offensive movement to be by concentrating in a principal
seaport. Failing such a contingency, however, and in and for coast
defence in its narrower sense, there should be a local flotilla of
small torpedo-vessels, which by their activity should make life a
burden to an outside enemy. A distinguished British admiral, now dead,
has said that he believed half the captains of a blockading fleet
would break down--"go crazy" were the words repeated to me--under the
strain of modern conditions. The expression, of course, was intended
simply to convey a sense of the immensity of suspense to be endured.
In such a flotilla, owing to the smallness of its components, and to
the simplicity of their organization and functions, is to be found the
best sphere for naval volunteers; the duties could be learned with
comparative ease, and the whole system is susceptible of rapid
development. Be it remembered, however, that it is essentially
defensive, only incidentally offensive, in character.

Such are the main elements of coast defence--guns, lines of torpedoes,
torpedo-boats. Of these none can be extemporized, with the possible
exception of the last, and that would be only a makeshift. To go into
details would exceed the limits of an article,--require a brief
treatise. Suffice it to say, without the first two, coast cities are
open to bombardment; without the last, they can be blockaded freely,
unless relieved by the sea-going navy. Bombardment and blockade are
recognized modes of warfare, subject only to reasonable
notification,--a concession rather to humanity and equity than to
strict law. Bombardment and blockade directed against great national
centres, in the close and complicated network of national and
commercial interests as they exist in modern times, strike not only
the point affected, but every corner of the land.

The offensive in naval war, as has been said, is the function of the
sea-going navy--of the battle-ships, and of the cruisers of various
sizes and purposes, including sea-going torpedo-vessels capable of
accompanying a fleet, without impeding its movements by their loss of
speed or unseaworthiness. Seaworthiness, and reasonable speed under
all weather conditions, are qualities necessary to every constituent
of a fleet; but, over and above these, the backbone and real power of
any navy are the vessels which, by due proportion of defensive and
offensive powers, are capable of taking and giving hard knocks. All
others are but subservient to these, and exist only for them.

What is that strength to be? Ships answering to this description are
the _kind_ which make naval strength; what is to be its _degree_? What
their number? The answer--a broad formula--is that it must be great
enough to take the sea, and to fight, with reasonable chances of
success, the largest force likely to be brought against it, as shown
by calculations which have been indicated previously. Being, as we
claim, and as our past history justifies us in claiming, a nation
indisposed to aggression, unwilling to extend our possessions or our
interests by war, the measure of strength we set ourselves depends,
necessarily, not upon our projects of aggrandizement, but upon the
disposition of others to thwart what we consider our reasonable
policy, which they may not so consider. When they resist, what force
can they bring against us? That force must be naval; we have no
exposed point upon which land operations, decisive in character, can
be directed. This is the kind of the hostile force to be apprehended.
What may its size be? There is the measure of our needed strength. The
calculation may be intricate, the conclusion only approximate and
probable, but it is the nearest reply we can reach. So many ships of
such and such sizes, so many guns, so much ammunition--in short, so
much naval material. In the material provisions that have been
summarized under the two chief heads of defence and offence--in coast
defence under its three principal requirements, guns, lines of
stationary torpedoes, and torpedo-boats, and in a navy able to keep
the sea in the presence of a probable enemy--consist what may be
called most accurately preparations for war. In so far as the United
States is short in them, she is at the mercy of an enemy whose naval
strength is greater than that of her own available navy. If her navy
cannot keep the enemy off the coast, blockade at least is possible.
If, in addition, there are no harbor torpedo-boats, blockade is easy.
If, further, guns and torpedo lines are deficient, bombardment comes
within the range of possibility, and may reach even the point of
entire feasibility. There will be no time for preparation after war

It is not in the preparation of material that states generally fall
most short of being ready for war at brief notice; for such
preparation is chiefly a question of money and of manufacture,--not so
much of preservation after creation. If money enough is forthcoming, a
moderate degree of foresight can insure that the amount of material
deemed necessary shall be on hand at a given future moment; and a
similar condition can be maintained steadily. Losses by deterioration
or expenditure, or demand for further increase if such appear
desirable, can all be forecast with reasonable calculations, and
requirements thence arising can be made good. This is comparatively
easy, because mere material, once wrought into shape for war, does not
deteriorate from its utility to the nation because not used
immediately. It can be stored and cared for at a relatively small
expense, and with proper oversight will remain just as good and just
as ready for use as at its first production. There are certain
deductions, a certain percentage of impairment to be allowed for, but
the general statement holds.

A very different question is confronted in the problem how to be ready
at equally short notice to use this material,--to provide in
sufficient numbers, upon a sudden call, the living agents, without
whom the material is worthless. Such men in our day must be especially
trained; and not only so, but while training once acquired will not be
forgot wholly--stays by a man for a certain time--it nevertheless
tends constantly to drop off from him. Like all habits, it requires
continued practice. Moreover, it takes quite a long time to form, in a
new recruit, not merely familiarity with the use of a particular
weapon, but also the habit and working of the military organization of
which he is an individual member. It is not enough that he learn just
that one part of the whole machinery which falls to him to handle; he
must be acquainted with the mutual relations of the other parts to his
own and to the whole, at least in great measure. Such knowledge is
essential even to the full and intelligent discharge of his own duty,
not to speak of the fact that in battle every man should be ready to
supply the place of another of his own class and grade who has been
disabled. Unless this be so, the ship will be very far short of her
best efficiency.

Now, to possess such proficiency in the handling of naval material for
war, and in playing an intelligent part in the general functioning of
a ship in action, much time is required. Time is required to obtain
it, further time is needed in order to retain it; and such time, be it
more or less, is time lost for other purposes,--lost both to the
individual and to the community. When you have your thoroughly
efficient man-of-war's man, you cannot store him as you do your guns
and ammunition, or lay him up as you may your ships, without his
deteriorating at a rate to which material presents no parallel. On the
other hand, if he be retained, voluntarily or otherwise, in the naval
service, there ensues the economical loss--the loss of productive
power--which constitutes the great argument against large standing
armies and enforced military service, advanced by those to whom the
productive energies of a country outweigh all other considerations.

It is this difficulty which is felt most by those responsible for the
military readiness of European states, and which therefore has engaged
their most anxious attention. The providing of material of war is an
onerous money question; but it is simple, and has some compensation
for the expense in the resulting employment of labor for its
production. It is quite another matter to have ready the number of men
needed,--to train them, and to keep them so trained as to be available

The solution is sought in a tax upon time--Upon the time of the
nation, economically lost to production, and upon the time of the
individual, lost out of his life. Like other taxes, the tendency on
all sides is to reduce this as far as possible,--to compromise between
ideal proficiency for probable contingencies, and the actual demands
of the existing and usual conditions of peace. Although inevitable,
the compromise is unsatisfactory, and yields but partial results in
either direction. The economist still deplores and resists the loss of
producers,--the military authorities insist that the country is short
of its necessary force. To obviate the difficulty as far as possible,
to meet both of the opposing demands, resort is had to the system of
reserves, into which men pass after serving in the active force for a
period, which is reduced to, and often below, the shortest compatible
with instruction in their duties, and with the maintenance of the
active forces at a fixed minimum. This instruction acquired, the
recipient passes into the reserve, leaves the life of the soldier or
seaman for that of the citizen, devoting a comparatively brief time in
every year to brushing up the knowledge formerly acquired. Such a
system, under some form, is found in services both voluntary and

It is scarcely necessary to say that such a method would never be
considered satisfactory in any of the occupations of ordinary life. A
man who learns his profession or trade, but never practises it, will
not long be considered fit for employment. No kind of practical
preparation, in the way of systematic instruction, equals the
practical knowledge imbibed in the common course of life. This is just
as true of the military professions--the naval especially--as it is of
civil callings; perhaps even more so, because the former are a more
unnatural, and therefore, when attained, a more highly specialized,
form of human activity. For the very reason that war is in the main an
evil, an unnatural state, but yet at times unavoidable, the demands
upon warriors, when average men, are exceptionally exacting.

Preparedness for naval war therefore consists not so much in the
building of ships and guns as it does in the possession of trained men
in adequate numbers, fit to go on board at once and use the material,
the provision of which is merely one of the essential preparations for
war. The word "fit" includes fairly all that detail of organization
commonly called mobilization, by which the movements of the individual
men are combined and directed. But mobilization, although the subjects
of it are men, is itself a piece of mental machinery. Once devised, it
may be susceptible of improvement, but it will not become inefficient
because filed away in a pigeon-hole, any more than guns and
projectiles become worthless by being stored in their parks or
magazines. Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of
themselves. Provide your fit men,--fit by their familiarity not only
with special instruments, but with a manner of life,--and your
mobilization is reduced to a slip of paper telling each one where he
is to go. He will get there.

That a navy, especially a large navy, can be kept fully manned in
peace--manned up to the requirements of war--must be dismissed as
impracticable. If greatly superior to a probable enemy, it will be
unnecessary; if more nearly equal, then the aim can only be to be
superior in the number of men immediately available, and fit according
to the standard of fitness here generalized. The place of a reserve in
any system of preparation for war must be admitted, because
inevitable. The question, of the proportion and character of the
reserve, relatively to the active force of peace, is the crux of the
matter. This is essentially the question between long-service and
short-service systems. With long service the reserves will be fewer,
and for the first few years of retirement much more efficient, for
they have acquired, not knowledge only, but a habit of life. With
short service, more men are shoved through the mill of the
training-school. Consequently they pass more rapidly into the reserve,
are less efficient when they get there, and lose more rapidly, because
they have acquired less thoroughly; on the other hand, they will be
decidedly more numerous, on paper at least, than the entire trained
force of a long-service system. The pessimists on either side will
expound the dangers--the one, of short numbers; the others, of
inadequate training.

Long service must be logically the desire, and the result, of
voluntary systems of recruiting the strength of a military force.
Where enrolment is a matter of individual choice, there is a better
chance of entrance resulting in the adoption of the life as a calling
to be followed; and this disposition can be encouraged by the offering
of suitable inducements. Where service is compulsory, that fact alone
tends to make it abhorrent, and voluntary persistence, after time has
been served, rare. But, on the other hand, as the necessity for
numbers in war is as real as the necessity of fitness, a body where
long service and small reserves obtain should in peace be more
numerous than one where the reserves are larger. To long service and
small reserves a large standing force is the natural corollary. It may
be added that it is more consonant to the necessities of warfare, and
more consistent with the idea of the word "reserve," as elsewhere used
in war. The reserve in battle is that portion of the force which is
withheld from engagement, awaiting the unforeseen developments of the
fight; but no general would think of carrying on a pitched battle with
the smaller part of his force, keeping the larger part in reserve.
Rapid concentration of effort, anticipating that of the enemy, is the
ideal of tactics and of strategy,--of the battle-field and of the
campaign. It is that, likewise, of the science of mobilization, in its
modern development. The reserve is but the margin of safety, to
compensate for defects in conception or execution, to which all
enterprises are liable; and it may be added that it is as applicable
to the material force--the ships, guns, etc.--as it is to the men.

The United States, like Great Britain, depends wholly upon voluntary
enlistments; and both nations, with unconscious logic, have laid great
stress upon continuous service, and comparatively little upon
reserves. When seamen have served the period which entitles them to
the rewards of continuous service, without further enlistment, they
are, though still in the prime of life, approaching the period when
fitness, in the private seaman or soldier, depends upon ingrained
habit--perfect practical familiarity with the life which has been
their one calling--rather than upon that elastic vigor which is the
privilege of youth. Should they elect to continue in the service,
there still remain some years in which they are an invaluable leaven,
by character and tradition. If they depart, they are for a few years a
reserve for war--if they choose to come forward; but it is manifest
that such a reserve can be but small, when compared with a system
which in three or five years passes men through the active force into
the reserve. The latter, however, is far less valuable, man for man.
Of course, a reserve which has not even three years' service is less
valuable still.

The United States is to all intents an insular power, like Great
Britain. We have but two land frontiers, Canada and Mexico. The latter
is hopelessly inferior to us in all the elements of military strength.
As regards Canada, Great Britain maintains a standing army; but, like
our own, its numbers indicate clearly that aggression will never be
her policy, except in those distant regions whither the great armies
of the world cannot act against her, unless they first wrench from her
the control of the sea. No modern state has long maintained a
supremacy by land and by sea,--one or the other has been held from
time to time by this or that country, but not both. Great Britain
wisely has chosen naval power; and, independent of her reluctance to
break with the United States for other reasons, she certainly would
regret to devote to the invasion of a nation of seventy millions the
small disposable force which she maintains in excess of the constant
requirements of her colonial interests. We are, it may be repeated, an
insular power, dependent therefore upon a navy.

Durable naval power, besides, depends ultimately upon extensive
commercial relations; consequently, and especially in an insular
state, it is rarely aggressive, in the military sense. Its instincts
are naturally for peace, because it has so much at stake outside its
shores. Historically, this has been the case with the conspicuous
example of sea power, Great Britain, since she became such; and it
increasingly tends to be so. It is also our own case, and to a yet
greater degree, because, with an immense compact territory, there has
not been the disposition to external effort which has carried the
British flag all over the globe, seeking to earn by foreign commerce
and distant settlement that abundance of resource which to us has been
the free gift of nature--or of Providence. By her very success,
however, Great Britain, in the vast increase and dispersion of her
external interests, has given hostages to fortune, which for mere
defence impose upon her a great navy. Our career has been different,
our conditions now are not identical, yet our geographical position
and political convictions have created for us also external interests
and external responsibilities, which are likewise our hostages to
fortune. It is not necessary to roam afar in search of adventures;
popular feeling and the deliberate judgment of statesmen alike have
asserted that, from conditions we neither made nor control, interests
beyond the sea exist, have sprung up of themselves, which demand
protection. "Beyond the sea"--that means a navy. Of invasion, in any
real sense of the word, we run no risk, and if we did, it must be by
sea; and there, at sea, must be met primarily, and ought to be met
decisively, any attempt at invasion of our interests, either in
distant lands, or at home by blockade or by bombardment. Yet the force
of men in the navy is smaller, by more than half, than that in the

The necessary complement of those admirable measures which have been
employed now for over a decade in the creation of naval material is
the preparation of an adequate force of trained men to use this
material when completed. Take an entirely fresh man: a battleship can
be built and put in commission before he becomes a trained
man-of-war's man, and a torpedo-boat can be built and ready for
service before, to use the old sea phrase, "the hay seed is out of his
hair." Further, in a voluntary service, you cannot keep your trained
men as you can your completed ship or gun. The inevitable inference is
that the standing force must be large, because you can neither create
it hastily nor maintain it by compulsion. Having fixed the amount of
material,--the numbers and character of the fleet,--from this follows
easily the number of men necessary to man it. This aggregate force can
then be distributed, upon some accepted idea, between the standing
navy and the reserve. Without fixing a proportion between the two, the
present writer is convinced that the reserve should be but a small
percentage of the whole, and that in a small navy, as ours,
relatively, long will be, this is doubly imperative; for the smaller
the navy, the greater the need for constant efficiency to act
promptly, and the smaller the expense of maintenance. In fact, where
quantity--number--is small, quality should be all the more high. The
quality of the whole is a question of _personnel_ even more than of
material; and the quality of the _personnel_ can be maintained only by
high individual fitness in the force, undiluted by dependence upon a
large, only partly efficient, reserve element.

    "One foot on sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never,"

will not man the fleet. It can be but an imperfect palliative, and can
be absorbed effectually by the main body only in small proportions. It
is in torpedo-boats for coast defence, and in commerce-destroying for
deep-sea warfare, that the true sphere for naval reserves will be
found; for the duties in both cases are comparatively simple, and the
organization can be the same.

Every danger of a military character to which the United States
is exposed can be met best outside her own territory--at sea.
Preparedness for naval war--preparedness against naval attack and for
naval offence--is preparedness for anything that is likely to occur.


_May, 1897._

Finality, the close of a life, of a relationship, of an era, even
though this be a purely artificial creation of human arrangement, in
all cases appeals powerfully to the imagination, and especially to
that of a generation self-conscious as ours, a generation which has
coined for itself the phrase _fin de siecle_ to express its belief,
however superficial and mistaken, that it knows its own exponents and
its own tendencies; that, amid the din of its own progress sounding in
its ears, it knows not only whence it comes but whither it goes. The
nineteenth century is about to die, only to rise again in the
twentieth. Whence did it come? How far has it gone? Whither is it

A full reply to such queries would presume an abridged universal
history of the expiring century such as a magazine article, or series
of articles, could not contemplate for a moment. The scope proposed to
himself by the present writer, itself almost unmanageable within the
necessary limits, looks not to the internal conditions of states, to
those economical and social tendencies which occupy so large a part of
contemporary attention, seeming to many the sole subjects that deserve
attention, and that from the most purely material and fleshly point of
view. Important as these things are, it may be affirmed at least that
they are not everything; and that, great as has been the material
progress of the century, the changes in international relations and
relative importance, not merely in states of the European family, but
among the peoples of the world at large, have been no less striking.
It is from this direction that the writer wishes to approach his
subject, which, if applied to any particular country, might be said to
be that of its external relations; but which, in the broader view that
it will be sought to attain, regards rather the general future of the
world as indicated by movements already begun and in progress, as well
as by tendencies now dimly discernible, which, if not counteracted,
are pregnant of further momentous shifting of the political balances,
profoundly affecting the welfare of mankind.

It appears a convenient, though doubtless very rough, way of prefacing
this subject to say that the huge colonizing movements of the
eighteenth century were brought to a pause by the American Revolution,
which deprived Great Britain of her richest colonies, succeeded, as
that almost immediately was, by the French Revolution and the
devastating wars of the republic and of Napoleon, which forced the
attention of Europe to withdraw from external allurements and to
concentrate upon its own internal affairs. The purchase of Louisiana
by the United States at the opening of the current century emphasized
this conclusion; for it practically eliminated the continent of North
America from the catalogue of wild territories available for foreign
settlement. Within a decade this was succeeded by the revolt of the
Spanish colonies, followed later by the pronouncements of President
Monroe and of Mr. Canning, which assured their independence by
preventing European interference. The firmness with which the position
of the former statesman has been maintained ever since by the great
body of the people of the United States, and the developments his
doctrine afterwards received, have removed the Spanish-American
countries equally from all probable chance of further European
colonization, in the political sense of the word.

Thus the century opened. Men's energies still sought scope beyond the
sea, doubtless; not, however, in the main, for the founding of new
colonies, but for utilizing ground already in political occupation.
Even this, however, was subsidiary. The great work of the nineteenth
century, from nearly its beginning to nearly its close, has been in
the recognition and study of the forces of nature, and the application
of them to the purposes of mechanical and economical advance. The
means thus placed in men's hands, so startling when first invented, so
familiar for the most part to us now, were devoted necessarily, first,
to the development of the resources of each country. Everywhere there
was a fresh field; for hitherto it had been nowhere possible to man
fully to utilize the gifts of nature. Energies everywhere turned
inward, for there, in every region, was more than enough to do.
Naturally, therefore, such a period has been in the main one of peace.
There have been great wars, certainly; but, nevertheless, external
peace has been the general characteristic of that period of
development, during which men have been occupied in revolutionizing
the face of their own countries by means of the new powers at their

All such phases pass, however, as does every human thing. Increase of
production--the idol of the economist--sought fresh markets, as might
have been predicted. The increase of home consumption, through
increased ease of living, increased wealth, increased population, did
not keep up with the increase of forth-putting and the facility of
distribution afforded by steam. In the middle of the century China and
Japan were forced out of the seclusion of ages, and were compelled,
for commercial purposes at least, to enter into relations with the
European communities, to buy and to sell with them. Serious attempts,
on any extensive scale, to acquire new political possessions abroad
largely ceased. Commerce only sought new footholds, sure that, given
the inch, she in the end would have the ell. Moreover, the growth of
the United States in population and resources, and the development of
the British Australian colonies, contributed to meet the demand, of
which the opening of China and Japan was only a single indication.
That opening, therefore, was rather an incident of the general
industrial development which followed upon the improvement of
mechanical processes and the multiplication of communications.

Thus the century passed its meridian, and began to decline towards its
close. There were wars and there were rumors of wars in the countries
of European civilization. Dynasties rose and fell, and nations shifted
their places in the scale of political importance, as old-time boys in
school went up and down; but, withal, the main characteristic abode,
and has become more and more the dominant prepossession of the
statesmen who reached their prime at or soon after the times when the
century itself culminated. The maintenance of a _status quo_, for
purely utilitarian reasons of an economical character, has gradually
become an ideal--the _quieta non movere_ of Sir Robert Walpole. The
ideal is respectable, certainly; in view of the concert of the powers,
in the interest of their own repose, to coerce Greece and the Cretans,
we may perhaps refrain from calling it noble. The question remains,
how long can it continue respectable in the sense of being practicable
of realization,--a rational possibility, not an idle dream? Many are
now found to say--and among them some of the most bitter of the
advocates of universal peace, who are among the bitterest of modern
disputants--that when the Czar Nicholas proposed to move the quiet
things, half a century ago, and to reconstruct the political map of
southeastern Europe in the interest of well-founded quiet, it was he
that showed the idealism of rational statesmanship,--the only truly
practical statesmanship,--while the defenders of the _status quo_
evinced the crude instincts of the mere time-serving politician. That
the latter did not insure quiet, even the quiet of desolation, in
those unhappy regions, we have yearly evidence. How far is it now a
practicable object, among the nations of the European family, to
continue indefinitely the present realization of peace and plenty,--in
themselves good things, but which are advocated largely on the ground
that man lives by bread alone,--in view of the changed conditions of
the world which the departing nineteenth century leaves with us as its
bequest? Is the outlook such that our present civilization, with its
benefits, is most likely to be insured by universal disarmament, the
clamor for which rises ominously--the word is used advisedly--among
our latter-day cries? None shares more heartily than the writer the
aspiration for the day when nations shall beat their swords into
ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks; but is European
civilization, including America, so situated that it can afford to
relax into an artificial peace, resting not upon the working of
national consciences, as questions arise, but upon a Permanent
Tribunal,--an external, if self-imposed authority,--the realization in
modern policy of the ideal of the mediaeval Papacy?

The outlook--the signs of the times, what are they? It is not given to
human vision, peering into the future, to see more than as through a
glass, darkly; men as trees walking, one cannot say certainly whither.
Yet signs may be noted even if they cannot be fully or precisely
interpreted; and among them I should certainly say is to be observed
the general outward impulse of all the civilized nations of the first
order of greatness--except our own. Bound and swathed in the
traditions of our own eighteenth century, when we were as truly
external to the European world as we are now a part of it, we, under
the specious plea of peace and plenty--fulness of bread--hug an ideal
of isolation, and refuse to recognize the solidarity of interest with
which the world of European civilization must not only look forward
to, but go out to meet, the future that, whether near or remote, seems
to await it. I say _we_ do so; I should more surely express my thought
by saying that the outward impulse already is in the majority of the
nation, as shown when particular occasions arouse their attention, but
that it is as yet retarded, and may be retarded perilously long, by
those whose views of national policy are governed by maxims framed in
the infancy of the Republic.

This outward impulse of the European nations, resumed on a large scale
after nearly a century of intermission, is not a mere sudden
appearance, sporadic, and unrelated to the past. The signs of its
coming, though unnoted, were visible soon after the century reached
its half-way stage, as was also its great correlative, equally
unappreciated then, though obvious enough now, the stirring of the
nations of Oriental civilization. It is a curious reminiscence of my
own that when in Yokohama, Japan, in 1868, I was asked to translate a
Spanish letter from Honolulu, relative to a ship-load of Japanese
coolies to be imported into Hawaii. I knew the person engaged to go as
physician to the ship, and, unless my memory greatly deceives me, he
sailed in this employment while I was still in the port. Similarly,
when my service on the station was ended, I went from Yokohama to
Hong-kong, prior to returning home by way of Suez. Among my
fellow-passengers was an ex-Confederate naval officer, whose business
was to negotiate for an immigration of Chinese into, I think, the
Southern States--in momentary despair, perhaps, of black labor--but
certainly into the United States. We all know what has come in our own
country of undertakings which then had attracted little attention.

It is odd to watch the unconscious, resistless movements of nations,
and at the same time read the crushing characterization by our
teachers of the press of those who, by personal characteristics or by
accident, happen to be thrust into the position of leaders, when at
the most they only guide to the least harm forces which can no more be
resisted permanently than can gravitation. Such would have been the
role of Nicholas, guiding to a timely end the irresistible course of
events in the Balkans, which his opponents sought to withstand, but
succeeded only in prolonging and aggravating. He is honored now by
those who see folly in the imperial aspirations of Mr. Joseph
Chamberlain, and piracy in Mr. Cecil Rhodes; yet, after all, in his
day, what right had he, by the code of strict constructionists of
national legal rights, to put Turkey to death because she was sick?
Was not Turkey in occupation? Had she not, by strict law, a right to
her possessions, and to live; yea, and to administer what she
considered justice to those who were legally her subjects? But men are
too apt to forget that law is the servant of equity, and that while
the world is in its present stage of development equity which cannot
be had by law must be had by force, upon which ultimately law rests,
not for its sanction, but for its efficacy.

We have been familiar latterly with the term "buffer states;" the
pleasant function discharged by Siam between Great Britain and France.
Though not strictly analogous, the term conveys an idea of the
relations that have hitherto obtained between Eastern and Western
civilizations. They have existed apart, each a world of itself; but
they are approaching not only in geographical propinquity, a
recognized source of danger, but, what is more important, in common
ideas of material advantage, without a corresponding sympathy in
spiritual ideas. It is not merely that the two are in different stages
of development from a common source, as are Russia and Great Britain.
They are running as yet on wholly different lines, springing from
conceptions radically different. To bring them into correspondence in
that, the most important realm of ideas, there is needed on the one
side--or on the other--not growth, but conversion. However far it has
wandered, and however short of its pattern it has come, the
civilization of modern Europe grew up under the shadow of the Cross,
and what is best in it still breathes the spirit of the Crucified. It
is to be feared that Eastern thinkers consider it rather an advantage
than a detriment that they are appropriating the material progress of
Europe unfettered by Christian traditions,--as agnostic countries.
But, for the present at least, agnosticism with Christian ages behind
it is a very different thing from agnosticism which has never known

What will be in the future the dominant spiritual ideas of those
nations which hitherto have been known as Christian, is scarcely a
question of the twentieth century. Whatever variations of faith, in
direction or in degree, the close of that century may show, it is not
probable that so short a period will reveal the full change of
standards and of practice which necessarily must follow ultimately
upon a radical change of belief. That the impress of Christianity will
remain throughout the coming century is reasonably as certain as that
it took centuries of nominal faith to lift Christian standards and
practice even to the point they now have reached. Decline, as well as
rise, must be gradual; and gradual likewise, granting the utmost
possible spread of Christian beliefs among them, will be the
approximation of the Eastern nations, as nations, to the principles
which powerfully modify, though they cannot control wholly even now,
the merely natural impulses of Western peoples. And if, as many now
say, faith has departed from among ourselves, and still more will
depart in the coming years; if we have no higher sanction to propose
for self-restraint and righteousness than enlightened self-interest
and the absurdity of war, war--violence--will be absurd just so long
as the balance of interest is on that side, and no longer. Those who
want will take, if they can, not merely from motives of high policy
and as legal opportunity offers, but for the simple reasons that they
have not, that they desire, and that they are able. The European world
has known that stage already; it has escaped from it only partially by
the gradual hallowing of public opinion and its growing weight in the
political scale. The Eastern world knows not the same motives, but it
is rapidly appreciating the material advantages and the political
traditions which have united to confer power upon the West; and with
the appreciation desire has arisen.

Coincident with the long pause which the French Revolution imposed
upon the process of external colonial expansion which was so marked a
feature of the eighteenth century, there occurred another singular
manifestation of national energies, in the creation of the great
standing armies of modern days, themselves the outcome of the _levee
en masse_, and of the general conscription, which the Revolution
bequeathed to us along with its expositions of the Rights of Man.
Beginning with the birth of the century, perfected during its
continuance, its close finds them in full maturity and power, with a
development in numbers, in reserve force, in organization, and in
material for war, over which the economist perpetually wails, whose
existence he denounces, and whose abolition he demands. As freedom has
grown and strengthened, so have they grown and strengthened. Is this
singular product of a century whose gains for political liberty are
undeniable, a mere gross perversion of human activities, as is so
confidently claimed on many sides? or is there possibly in it also a
sign of the times to come, to be studied in connection with other
signs, some of which we have noted?

What has been the effect of these great armies? Manifold, doubtless.
On the economical side there is the diminution of production, the tax
upon men's time and lives, the disadvantages or evils so dinned daily
into our ears that there is no need of repeating them here. But is
there nothing to the credit side of the account, even perhaps a
balance in their favor? Is it nothing, in an age when authority is
weakening and restraints are loosening, that the youth of a nation
passes through a school in which order, obedience, and reverence are
learned, where the body is systematically developed, where ideals of
self-surrender, of courage, of manhood, are inculcated, necessarily,
because fundamental conditions of military success? Is it nothing that
masses of youths out of the fields and the streets are brought
together, mingled with others of higher intellectual antecedents,
taught to work and to act together, mind in contact with mind, and
carrying back into civil life that respect for constituted authority
which is urgently needed in these days when lawlessness is erected
into a religion? It is a suggestive lesson to watch the expression and
movements of a number of rustic conscripts undergoing their first
drills, and to contrast them with the finished result as seen in the
faces and bearing of the soldiers that throng the streets. A military
training is not the worst preparation for an active life, any more
than the years spent at college are time lost, as another school of
utilitarians insists. Is it nothing that wars are less frequent, peace
better secured, by the mutual respect of nations for each other's
strength; and that, when a convulsion does come, it passes rapidly,
leaving the ordinary course of events to resume sooner, and therefore
more easily? War now not only occurs more rarely, but has rather the
character of an occasional excess, from which recovery is easy. A
century or more ago it was a chronic disease. And withal, the military
spirit, the preparedness--not merely the willingness, which is a
different thing--to fight in a good cause, which is a distinct good,
is more widely diffused and more thoroughly possessed than ever it was
when the soldier was merely the paid man. It is the nations now that
are in arms, and not simply the servants of the king.

In forecasting the future, then, it is upon these particular signs of
the times that I dwell: the arrest of the forward impulse towards
political colonization which coincided with the decade immediately
preceding the French Revolution; the absorption of the European
nations, for the following quarter of a century, with the universal
wars, involving questions chiefly political and European; the
beginning of the great era of coal and iron, of mechanical and
industrial development, which succeeded the peace, and during which it
was not aggressive colonization, but the development of colonies
already held and of new commercial centres, notably in China and
Japan, that was the most prominent feature; finally, we have, resumed
at the end of the century, the forward movement of political
colonization by the mother countries, powerfully incited thereto,
doubtless, by the citizens of the old colonies in different parts of
the world. The restlessness of Australia and the Cape Colony has
doubtless counted for much in British advances in those regions.
Contemporary with all these movements, from the first to the last, has
been the development of great standing armies, or rather of armed
nations, in Europe; and, lastly, the stirring of the East, its
entrance into the field of Western interests, not merely as a passive
something to be impinged upon, but with a vitality of its own,
formless yet, but significant, inasmuch as where before there was
torpor, if not death, now there is indisputable movement and life.
Never again, probably, can there of it be said,

    "It heard the legions thunder past,
    Then plunged in thought again."

Of this the astonishing development of Japan is the most obvious
evidence; but in India, though there be no probability of the old
mutinies reviving, there are signs enough of the awaking of political
intelligence, restlessness under foreign subjection, however
beneficent, desire for greater play for its own individualities; a
movement which, because intellectual and appreciative of the
advantages of Western material and political civilization, is less
immediately threatening than the former revolt, but much more ominous
of great future changes.

Of China we know less; but many observers testify to the immense
latent force of the Chinese character. It has shown itself hitherto
chiefly in the strength with which it has adhered to stereotyped
tradition. But stereotyped traditions have been overthrown already
more than once even in this unprogressive people, whose conservatism,
due largely to ignorance of better conditions existing in other lands,
is closely allied also to the unusual staying powers of the race, to
the persistence of purpose, the endurance, and the vitality
characteristic of its units. To ambition for individual material
improvement they are not insensible. The collapse of the Chinese
organization in all its branches during the late war with Japan,
though greater than was expected, was not unforeseen. It has not
altered the fact that the raw material so miserably utilized is, in
point of strength, of the best; that it is abundant, racially
homogeneous, and is multiplying rapidly. Nor, with the recent
resuscitation of the Turkish army before men's eyes, can it be thought
unlikely that the Chinese may yet obtain the organization by which
alone potential force receives adequate military development, the most
easily conferred because the simplest in conception. The Japanese have
shown great capacity, but they met little resistance; and it is easier
by far to move and to control an island kingdom of forty millions than
a vast continental territory containing near tenfold that number of
inhabitants. Comparative slowness of evolution may be predicated, but
that which for so long has kept China one, amid many diversities, may
be counted upon in the future to insure a substantial unity of impulse
which, combined with its mass, will give tremendous import to any
movement common to the whole.

To assert that a few selected characteristics, such as the above,
summarize the entire tendency of a century of teeming human life, and
stand alone among the signs that are chiefly to be considered in
looking to the future, would be to take an untenable position. It may
be said safely, however, that these factors, because the future to
which they point is more remote, are less regarded than others which
are less important; and further, that those among them which mark our
own day are also the factors whose very existence is specially
resented, criticised, and condemned by that school of political
thought which assumes for itself the title of economical, which
attained its maturity, and still lives, amid the ideas of that stage
of industrial progress coincident with the middle of the century, and
which sees all things from the point of view of production and of
internal development. Powerfully exerted throughout the world, nowhere
is the influence of this school so unchecked and so injurious as in
the United States, because, having no near neighbors to compete with
us in point of power, military necessities have been to us not
imminent, so that, like all distant dangers, they have received little
regard; and also because, with our great resources only partially
developed, the instinct to external activities has remained dormant.
At the same period and from the same causes that the European world
turned its eyes inward from the seaboard, instead of outward, the
people of the United States were similarly diverted from the external
activities in which at the beginning of the century they had their
wealth. This tendency, emphasized on the political side by the civil
war, was reinforced and has been prolonged by well-known natural
conditions. A territory much larger, far less redeemed from its
original wildness, and with perhaps even ampler proportionate
resources than the continent of Europe, contained a much smaller
number of inhabitants. Hence, despite an immense immigration, we have
lagged far behind in the work of completing our internal development,
and for that reason have not yet felt the outward impulse that now
markedly characterizes the European peoples. That we stand far apart
from the general movement of our race calls of itself for

For the reasons mentioned it has been an easy but a short-sighted
policy, wherever it has been found among statesmen or among
journalists, to fasten attention purely on internal and economical
questions, and to reject, if not to resent, propositions looking
towards the organization and maintenance of military force, or
contemplating the extension of our national influence beyond our own
borders, on the plea that we have enough to do at home,--forgetful
that no nation, as no man, can live to itself or die to itself. It is
a policy in which we are behind our predecessors of two generations
ago, men who had not felt the deadening influence of merely economical
ideas, because they reached manhood before these attained the
preponderance they achieved under politicians of the Manchester
school; a preponderance which they still retain because the youths of
that time, who grew up under them, have not yet quite passed off the
stage. It is the lot of each generation, salutary no doubt, to be
ruled by men whose ideas are essentially those of a former day.
Breaches of continuity in national action are thus moderated or
avoided; but, on the other hand, the tendency of such a condition is
to blind men to the spirit of the existing generation, because its
rulers have the tone of their own past, and direct affairs in
accordance with it. On the very day of this writing there appears in
an American journal a slashing contrast between the action of Lord
Salisbury in the Cretan business and the spirited letter of Mr.
Gladstone upon the failure of the Concert. As a matter of fact,
however, both those British statesmen, while belonging to parties
traditionally opposed, are imbued above all with the ideas of the
middle of the century, and, governed by them, consider the disturbance
of quiet the greatest of all evils. It is difficult to believe that if
Mr. Gladstone were now in his prime, and in power, any object would
possess in his eyes an importance at all comparable to that of keeping
the peace. He would feel for the Greeks, doubtless, as Lord Salisbury
doubtless does; but he would maintain the Concert as long as he
believed that alone would avoid war. When men in sympathy with the
ideas now arising among Englishmen come on the stage, we shall see a
change--not before.

The same spirit has dominated in our own country ever since the civil
war--a far more real "revolution" in its consequences than the
struggle of the thirteen colonies against Great Britain, which in our
national speech has received the name--forced our people, both North
and South, to withdraw their eyes from external problems, and to
concentrate heart and mind with passionate fervor upon an internal
strife, in which one party was animated by the inspiring hope of
independence, while before the other was exalted the noble ideal of
union. That war, however, was directed, on the civil side, by men who
belonged to a generation even then passing away. The influence of
their own youth reverted with the return of peace, and was to be seen
in the ejection--by threat of force--of the third Napoleon from
Mexico, in the acquisition of Alaska, and in the negotiations for the
purchase of the Danish islands and of Samana Bay. Whatever may have
been the wisdom of these latter attempts,--and the writer, while
sympathizing with the spirit that suggested them, questions it from a
military, or rather naval, stand-point,--they are particularly
interesting as indicating the survival in elderly men of the
traditions accepted in their youth, but foreign to the generation then
rapidly coming into power, which rejected and frustrated them.

The latter in turn is now disappearing, and its successors, coming and
to come, are crowding into its places. Is there any indication of the
ideas these bring with them, in their own utterances, or in the spirit
of the world at large, which they must needs reflect; or, more
important perhaps still, is there any indication in the conditions of
the outside world itself which they should heed, and the influence of
which they should admit, in modifying and shaping their policies,
before these have become hardened into fixed lines, directive for many
years of the future welfare of their people?

To all these questions the writer, as one of the departing generation,
would answer yes; but it is to the last that his attention, possibly
by constitutional bias, is more naturally directed. It appears to him
that in the ebb and flow of human affairs, under those mysterious
impulses the origin of which is sought by some in a personal
Providence, by some in laws not yet fully understood, we stand at the
opening of a period when the question is to be settled decisively,
though the issue may be long delayed, whether Eastern or Western
civilization is to dominate throughout the earth and to control its
future. The great task now before the world of civilized Christianity,
its great mission, which it must fulfil or perish, is to receive into
its own bosom and raise to its own ideals those ancient and different
civilizations by which it is surrounded and outnumbered,--the
civilizations at the head of which stand China, India, and Japan.
This, to cite the most striking of the many forms in which it is
presented to us, is surely the mission which Great Britain, sword ever
at hand, has been discharging towards India; but that stands not
alone. The history of the present century has been that of a constant
increasing pressure of our own civilization upon these older ones,
till now, as we cast our eyes in any direction, there is everywhere a
stirring, a rousing from sleep, drowsy for the most part, but real,
unorganized as yet, but conscious that that which rudely interrupts
their dream of centuries possesses over them at least two
advantages,--power and material prosperity,--the things which
unspiritual humanity, the world over, most craves.

What the ultimate result will be it would be vain to prophesy,--the
data for a guess even are not at hand; but it is not equally
impossible to note present conditions, and to suggest present
considerations, which may shape proximate action, and tend to favor
the preponderance of that form of civilization which we cannot but
deem the most promising for the future, not of our race only, but of
the world at large. We are not living in a perfect world, and we may
not expect to deal with imperfect conditions by methods ideally
perfect. Time and staying power must be secured for ourselves by that
rude and imperfect, but not ignoble, arbiter, force,--force potential
and force organized,--which so far has won, and still secures, the
greatest triumphs of good in the checkered history of mankind. Our
material advantages, once noted, will be recognized readily and
appropriated with avidity; while the spiritual ideas which dominate
our thoughts, and are weighty in their influence over action, even
with those among us who do not accept historic Christianity or the
ordinary creeds of Christendom, will be rejected for long. The eternal
law, first that which is natural, afterwards that which is spiritual,
will obtain here, as in the individual, and in the long history of our
own civilization. Between the two there is an interval, in which force
must be ready to redress any threatened disturbance of an equal
balance between those who stand on divergent planes of thought,
without common standards.

And yet more is this true if, as is commonly said, faith is failing
among ourselves, if the progress of our own civilization is towards
the loss of those spiritual convictions upon which it was founded, and
which in early days were mighty indeed towards the overthrowing of
strongholds of evil. What, in such a case, shall play the tremendous
part which the Church of the Middle Ages, with all its defects and
with all the shortcomings of its ministers, played amid the ruin of
the Roman Empire and the flood of the barbarians? If our own
civilization is becoming material only, a thing limited in hope and
love to this world, I know not what we have to offer to save ourselves
or others; but in either event, whether to go down finally under a
flood of outside invasion, or whether to succeed, by our own living
faith, in converting to our ideal civilization those who shall thus
press upon us,--in either event we need time, and time can be gained
only by organized material force.

Nor is this view advanced in any spirit of unfriendliness to the other
ancient civilizations, whose genius admittedly has been and is foreign
to our own. One who believes that God has made of one blood all
nations of men who dwell on the face of the whole earth cannot but
check and repress, if he ever feels, any movement of aversion to
mankind outside his own race. But it is not necessary to hate Carthage
in order to admit that it was well for mankind that Rome triumphed;
and we at this day, and men to all time, may be thankful that a few
decades after the Punic Wars the genius of Caesar so expanded the
bounds of the dominions of Rome, so extended, settled, and solidified
the outworks of her civilization and polity, that when the fated day
came that her power in turn should reel under the shock of conquest,
with which she had remodelled the world, and she should go down
herself, the time of the final fall was protracted for centuries by
these exterior defences. They who began the assault as barbarians
entered upon the imperial heritage no longer aliens and foreigners,
but impregnated already with the best of Roman ideas, converts to
Roman law and to Christian faith.

"When the course of history," says Mommsen, "turns from the miserable
monotony of the political selfishness which fought its battles in the
Senate House and in the streets of Rome, we may be allowed--on the
threshold of an event the effects of which still at the present day
influence the destinies of the world--to look round us for a moment,
and to indicate the point of view under which the conquest of what is
now France by the Romans, and their first contact with the inhabitants
of Germany and of Great Britain, are to be regarded in connection with
the general history of the world.... The fact that the great Celtic
people were ruined by the transalpine wars of Caesar was not the most
important result of that grand enterprise,--far more momentous than
the negative was the positive result. It hardly admits of a doubt that
if the rule of the Senate had prolonged its semblance of life for some
generations longer, the migration of the peoples, as it is called,
would have occurred four hundred years sooner than it did, and would
have occurred at a time when the Italian civilization had not become
naturalized either in Gaul or on the Danube or in Africa and Spain.
Inasmuch as Caesar with sure glance perceived in the German tribes the
rival antagonists of the Romano-Greek world, inasmuch as with firm
hand he established the new system of aggressive defence down even to
its details, and taught men to protect the frontiers of the empire by
rivers or artificial ramparts, to colonize the nearest barbarian
tribes along the frontier with the view of warding off the more
remote, and to recruit the Roman army by enlistment from the enemy's
country, he gained for the Hellenic-Italian culture the interval
necessary to civilize the West, just as it had already civilized the
East.... Centuries elapsed before men understood that Alexander had
not merely erected an ephemeral kingdom in the East, but had carried
Hellenism to Asia; centuries again elapsed before men understood that
Caesar had not merely conquered a new province for the Romans, but had
laid the foundation for the Romanizing of the regions of the West. It
was only a late posterity that perceived the meaning of those
expeditions to England and Germany, so inconsiderate in a military
point of view, and so barren of immediate result.... That there is a
bridge connecting the past glory of Hellas and Rome with the prouder
fabric of modern history; that western Europe is Romanic, and Germanic
Europe classic; that the names of Themistocles and Scipio have to us a
very different sound from those of Asoka and Salmanassar; that Homer
and Sophocles are not merely like the Vedas and Kalidasa, attractive
to the literary botanist, but bloom for us in our own garden,--all
this is the work of Caesar."

History at times reveals her foresight concrete in the action of a
great individuality like Caesar's. More often her profounder movements
proceed from impulses whose origin and motives cannot be traced,
although a succession of steps may be discerned and their results
stated. A few names, for instance, emerge amid the obscure movements
of the peoples which precipitated the outer peoples upon the Roman
Empire, but, with rare exceptions, they are simply exponents, pushed
forward and upward by the torrent; at the utmost guides, not
controllers, of those whom they represent but do not govern. It is
much the same now. The peoples of European civilization, after a
period of comparative repose, are again advancing all along the line,
to occupy not only the desert places of the earth, but the debatable
grounds, the buffer territories, which hitherto have separated them
from those ancient nations, with whom they now soon must stand face to
face and border to border. But who will say that this vast general
movement represents the thought, even the unconscious thought, of any
one man, as Caesar, or of any few men? To whatever cause we may assign
it, whether to the simple conception of a personal Divine Monarchy
that shapes our ends, or to more complicated ultimate causes, the
responsibility rests upon the shoulders of no individual men.
Necessity is laid upon the peoples, and they move, like the lemmings
of Scandinavia; but to man, being not without understanding like the
beasts that perish, it is permitted to ask, "Whither?" and "What shall
be the end hereof?" Does this tend to universal peace, general
disarmament, and treaties of permanent arbitration? Is it the
harbinger of ready mutual understanding, of quick acceptance of, and
delight in, opposing traditions and habits of life and thought? Is
such quick acceptance found now where Easterns and Westerns impinge?
Does contact forebode the speedy disappearance of great armies and
navies, and dictate the wisdom of dispensing with that form of
organized force which at present is embodied in them?

What, then, will be the actual conditions when these civilizations, of
diverse origin and radically distinct,--because the evolution of
racial characteristics radically different,--confront each other
without the interposition of any neutral belt, by the intervention of
which the contrasts, being more remote, are less apparent, and within
which distinctions shade one into the other?

There will be seen, on the one hand, a vast preponderance of numbers,
and those numbers, however incoherent now in mass, composed of units
which in their individual capacity have in no small degree the great
elements of strength whereby man prevails over man and the fittest
survives. Deficient, apparently, in aptitude for political and social
organization, they have failed to evolve the aggregate power and
intellectual scope of which as communities they are otherwise capable.
This lesson too they may learn, as they already have learned from us
much that they have failed themselves to originate; but to the lack of
it is chiefly due the inferiority of material development under which,
as compared to ourselves, they now labor. But men do not covet less
the prosperity which they themselves cannot or do not create,--a trait
wherein lies the strength of communism as an aggressive social force.
Communities which want and cannot have, except by force, will take by
force, unless they are restrained by force; nor will it be
unprecedented in the history of the world that the flood of numbers
should pour over and sweep away the barriers which intelligent
foresight, like Caesar's, may have erected against them. Still more
will this be so if the barriers have ceased to be manned--forsaken or
neglected by men in whom the proud combative spirit of their ancestors
has given way to the cry for the abandonment of military preparation
and to the decay of warlike habits.

Nevertheless, even under such conditions,--which obtained increasingly
during the decline of the Roman Empire,--positions suitably chosen,
frontiers suitably advanced, will do much to retard and, by gaining
time, to modify the disaster to the one party, and to convert the
general issue to the benefit of the world. Hence the immense
importance of discerning betimes what the real value of positions is,
and where occupation should betimes begin. Here, in part at least, is
the significance of the great outward movement of the European nations
to-day. Consciously or unconsciously, they are advancing the outposts
of our civilization, and accumulating the line of defences which will
permit it to survive, or at the least will insure that it shall not go
down till it has leavened the character of the world for a future
brighter even than its past, just as the Roman civilization inspired
and exalted its Teutonic conquerors, and continues to bless them to
this day.

Such is the tendency of movement in that which we in common parlance
call the Old World. As the nineteenth century closes, the tide has
already turned and the current is flowing strongly. It is not too
soon, for vast is the work before it. Contrasted to the outside world
in extent and population, the civilization of the European group of
families, to which our interests and anxieties, our hopes and fears,
are so largely confined, has been as an oasis in a desert. The seat
and scene of the loftiest culture, of the highest intellectual
activities, it is not in them so much that it has exceeded the rest of
the world as in the political development and material prosperity
which it has owed to the virile energies of its sons, alike in
commerce and in war. To these energies the mechanical and scientific
acquirements of the past half-century or more have extended means
whereby prosperity has increased manifold, as have the inequalities in
material well-being existing between those within its borders and
those without, who have not had the opportunity or the wit to use the
same advantages. And along with this preeminence in wealth arises the
cry to disarm, as though the race, not of Europe only, but of the
world, were already run, and the goal of universal peace not only
reached but secured. Yet are conditions such, even within our favored
borders, that we are ready to disband the particular organized
manifestation of physical force which we call the police?

Despite internal jealousies and friction on the continent of Europe,
perhaps even because of them, the solidarity of the European family
therein contained is shown in this great common movement, the ultimate
beneficence of which is beyond all doubt, as evidenced by the British
domination in India and Egypt, and to which the habit of arms not only
contributes, but is essential. India and Egypt are at present the two
most conspicuous, though they are not the sole, illustrations of
benefits innumerable and lasting, which rest upon the power of the
sword in the hands of enlightenment and justice. It is possible, of
course, to confuse this conclusion, to obscure the real issue, by
dwelling upon details of wrongs at times inflicted, of blunders often
made. Any episode in the struggling progress of humanity may be thus
perplexed; but looking at the broad result, it is indisputable that
the vast gains to humanity made in the regions named not only once
originated, but still rest, upon the exertion and continued
maintenance of organized physical force.

The same general solidarity as against the outside world, which is
unconsciously manifested in the general resumption of colonizing
movements, receives particular conscious expression in the idea of
imperial federation, which, amid the many buffets and reverses common
to all successful movements, has gained such notable ground in the
sentiment of the British people and of their colonists. That immense
practical difficulties have to be overcome, in order to realize the
ends towards which such sentiments point, is but a commonplace of
human experience in all ages and countries. They give rise to the
ready sneer of impossible, just as any project of extending the sphere
of the United States, by annexation or otherwise, is met by the
constitutional lion in the path, which the unwilling or the
apprehensive is ever sure to find; yet, to use words of one who never
lightly admitted impossibilities, "If a thing is necessary to be done,
the more difficulties, the more necessary to try to remove them." As
sentiment strengthens, it undermines obstacles, and they crumble
before it.

The same tendency is shown in the undeniable disposition of the
British people and of British, statesmen to cultivate the good-will of
the United States, and to draw closer the relations between the two
countries. For the disposition underlying such a tendency Mr. Balfour
has used an expression, "race patriotism,"--a phrase which finds its
first approximation, doubtless, in the English-speaking family, but
which may well extend its embrace, in a time yet distant, to all those
who have drawn their present civilization from the same remote
sources. The phrase is so pregnant of solution for the problems of the
future, as conceived by the writer, that he hopes to see it obtain the
currency due to the value of the idea which it formulates. That this
disposition on the part of Great Britain, towards her colonies and
towards the United States, shows sound policy as well as sentiment,
may be granted readily; but why should sound policy, the seeking of
one's own advantage, if by open and honest means, be imputed as a
crime? In democracies, however, policy cannot long dispute the sceptre
with sentiment. That there is lukewarm response in the United States
is due to that narrow conception which grew up with the middle of the
century, whose analogue in Great Britain is the Little England party,
and which in our own country would turn all eyes inward, and see no
duty save to ourselves. How shall two walk together except they be
agreed? How shall there be true sympathy between a nation whose
political activities are world-wide, and one that eats out its heart
in merely internal political strife? When we begin really to look
abroad, and to busy ourselves with our duties to the world at large in
our generation--and not before--we shall stretch out our hands to
Great Britain, realizing that in unity of heart among the
English-speaking races lies the best hope of humanity in the doubtful
days ahead.

In the determination of the duties of nations, nearness is the most
conspicuous and the most general indication. Considering the American
states as members of the European family, as they are by traditions,
institutions, and languages, it is in the Pacific, where the westward
course of empire again meets the East, that their relations to the
future of the world become most apparent. The Atlantic, bordered on
either shore by the European family in the strongest and most advanced
types of its political development, no longer severs, but binds
together, by all the facilities and abundance of water communications,
the once divided children of the same mother; the inheritors of Greece
and Rome, and of the Teutonic conquerors of the latter. A limited
express or a flying freight may carry a few passengers or a small bulk
overland from the Atlantic to the Pacific more rapidly than modern
steamers can cross the former ocean, but for the vast amounts in
numbers or in quantity which are required for the full fruition of
communication, it is the land that divides, and not the sea. On the
Pacific coast, severed from their brethren by desert and mountain
range, are found the outposts, the exposed pioneers of European
civilization, whom it is one of the first duties of the European
family to bind more closely to the main body, and to protect, by due
foresight over the approaches to them on either side.

It is in this political fact, and not in the weighing of merely
commercial advantages, that is to be found the great significance of
the future canal across the Central American isthmus, as well as the
importance of the Caribbean Sea; for the latter is inseparably
intwined with all international consideration of the isthmus problem.
Wherever situated, whether at Panama or at Nicaragua, the fundamental
meaning of the canal will be that it advances by thousands of miles
the frontiers of European civilization in general, and of the United
States in particular; that it knits together the whole system of
American states enjoying that civilization as in no other way they can
be bound. In the Caribbean Archipelago--the very domain of sea power,
if ever region could be called so--are the natural home and centre of
those influences by which such a maritime highway as a canal must be
controlled, even as the control of the Suez Canal rests in the
Mediterranean. Hawaii, too, is an outpost of the canal, as surely as
Aden or Malta is of Suez; or as Malta was of India in the days long
before the canal, when Nelson proclaimed that in that point of view
chiefly was it important to Great Britain. In the cluster of island
fortresses of the Caribbean is one of the greatest of the nerve
centres of the whole body of European civilization; and it is to be
regretted that so serious a portion of them now is in hands which not
only never have given, but to all appearances never can give, the
development which is required by the general interest.

For what awaits us in the future, in common with the states of Europe,
is not a mere question of advantage or disadvantage--of more or less.
Issues of vital moment are involved. A present generation is trustee
for its successors, and may be faithless to its charge quite as truly
by inaction as by action, by omission as by commission. Failure to
improve opportunity, where just occasion arises, may entail upon
posterity problems and difficulties which, if overcome at all--it may
then be too late--will be so at the cost of blood and tears that
timely foresight might have spared. Such preventive measures, if
taken, are in no true sense offensive but defensive. Decadent
conditions, such as we observe in Turkey--and not in Turkey
alone--cannot be indefinitely prolonged by opportunist counsels or
timid procrastination. A time comes in human affairs, as in physical
ailments, when heroic measures must be used to save the life of a
patient or the welfare of a community; and if that time is allowed to
pass, as many now think that it was at the time of the Crimean war,
the last state is worse than the first,--an opinion which these
passing days of the hesitancy of the Concert and the anguish of
Greece, not to speak of the Armenian outrages, surely indorse. Europe,
advancing in distant regions, still allows to exist in her own side,
unexcised, a sore that may yet drain her life-blood; still leaves in
recognized dominion, over fair regions of great future import, a
system whose hopelessness of political and social improvement the
lapse of time renders continually more certain,--an evil augury for
the future, if a turning tide shall find it unchanged, an outpost of
barbarism ready for alien occupation.

It is essential to our own good, it is yet more essential as part of
our duty to the commonwealth of peoples to which we racially belong,
that we look with clear, dispassionate, but resolute eyes upon the
fact that civilizations on different planes of material prosperity and
progress, with different spiritual ideals, and with very different
political capacities, are fast closing together. It is a condition not
unprecedented in the history of the world. When it befell a great
united empire, enervated by long years of unwarlike habits among its
chief citizens, it entailed ruin, but ruin deferred through centuries,
thanks to the provision made beforehand by a great general and
statesman. The Saracenic and Turkish invasions, on the contrary, after
generations of advance, were first checked, and then rolled back; for
they fell upon peoples, disunited indeed by internal discords and
strife, like the nations of Europe to-day, but still nations of
warriors, ready by training and habit to strike for their rights, and,
if need were, to die for them. In the providence of God, along with
the immense increase of prosperity, of physical and mental luxury,
brought by this century, there has grown up also that counterpoise
stigmatized as "militarism," which has converted Europe into a great
camp of soldiers prepared for war. The ill-timed cry for disarmament,
heedless of the menacing possibilities of the future, breaks idly
against a great fact, which finds its sufficient justification in
present conditions, but which is, above all, an unconscious
preparation for something as yet noted but by few.

On the side of the land, these great armies, and the blind outward
impulse of the European peoples, are the assurance that generations
must elapse ere the barriers can be overcome behind which rests the
citadel of Christian civilization. On the side of the sea there is no
state charged with weightier responsibilities than the United States.
In the Caribbean, the sensitive resentment by our people of any
supposed fresh encroachment by another state of the European family
has been manifested too plainly and too recently to admit of dispute.
Such an attitude of itself demands of us to be ready to support it by
organized force, exactly as the mutual jealousy of states within the
European Continent imposes upon them the maintenance of their great
armies--destined, we believe, in the future, to fulfil a nobler
mission. Where we thus exclude others, we accept for ourselves the
responsibility for that which is due to the general family of our
civilization; and the Caribbean Sea, with its isthmus, is the nexus
where will meet the chords binding the East to the West, the Atlantic
to the Pacific.

The Isthmus, with all that depends upon it,--its canal and its
approaches on either hand,--will link the eastern side of the American
continent to the western as no network of land communications ever
can. In it the United States has asserted a special interest. In the
present she can maintain her claim, and in the future perform her
duty, only by the creation of that sea power upon which predominance
in the Caribbean must ever depend. In short, as the internal
jealousies of Europe, and the purely democratic institution of the
_levee en masse_--the general enforcement of military training--have
prepared the way for great national armies, whose mission seems yet
obscure, so the gradual broadening and tightening hold upon the
sentiment of American democracy of that conviction loosely
characterized as the Monroe doctrine finds its logical and inevitable
outcome in a great sea power, the correlative, in connection with that
of Great Britain, of those armies which continue to flourish under the
most popular institutions, despite the wails of economists and the
lamentations of those who wish peace without paying the one price
which alone has ever insured peace,--readiness for war.

Thus it was, while readiness for war lasted, that the Teuton was held
back until he became civilized, humanized, after the standard of that
age; till the root of the matter was in him, sure to bear fruit in due
season. He was held back by organized armed force--by armies. Will it
be said that that was in a past barbaric age? Barbarism, however, is
not in more or less material prosperity, or even political
development, but in the inner man, in the spiritual ideal; and the
material, which comes first and has in itself no salt of life to save
from corruption, must be controlled by other material forces, until
the spiritual can find room and time to germinate. We need not fear
but that that which appeals to the senses in our civilization will be
appropriated, even though it be necessary to destroy us, if disarmed,
in order to obtain it. Our own civilization less its spiritual element
is barbarism; and barbarism will be the civilization of those who
assimilate its material progress without imbibing the indwelling

Let us worship peace, indeed, as the goal at which humanity must hope
to arrive; but let us not fancy that peace is to be had as a boy
wrenches an unripe fruit from a tree. Nor will peace be reached by
ignoring the conditions that confront us, or by exaggerating the
charms of quiet, of prosperity, of ease, and by contrasting these
exclusively with the alarms and horrors of war. Merely utilitarian
arguments have never convinced nor converted mankind, and they never
will; for mankind knows that there is something better. Its homage
will never be commanded by peace, presented as the tutelary deity of
the stock-market.

Nothing is more ominous for the future of our race than that tendency,
vociferous at present, which refuses to recognize in the profession of
arms, in war, that something which inspired Wordsworth's "Happy
Warrior," which soothed the dying hours of Henry Lawrence, who framed
the ideals of his career on the poet's conception, and so nobly
illustrated it in his self-sacrifice; that something which has made
the soldier to all ages the type of heroism and of self-denial. When
the religion of Christ, of Him who was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
seeks to raise before its followers the image of self-control, and of
resistance to evil, it is the soldier whom it presents. He Himself, if
by office King of Peace, is, first of all, in the essence of His
Being, King of Righteousness, without which true peace cannot be.

Conflict is the condition of all life, material and spiritual; and it
is to the soldier's experience that the spiritual life goes for its
most vivid metaphors and its loftiest inspirations. Whatever else the
twentieth century may bring us, it will not, from anything now current
in the thought of the nineteenth, receive a nobler ideal.



_June, 1897._

The importance, absolute and relative, of portions of the earth's
surface, and their consequent interest to mankind, vary from time to
time. The Mediterranean was for many ages the centre round which
gathered all the influences and developments of those earlier
civilizations from which our own, mediately or immediately, derives.
During the chaotic period of struggle that intervened between their
fall and the dawn of our modern conditions, the Inland Sea, through
its hold upon the traditions and culture of antiquity, still retained
a general ascendency, although at length its political predominance
was challenged, and finally overcome, by the younger, more virile, and
more warlike nationalities that had been forming gradually beyond the
Alps, and on the shores of the Atlantic and Northern oceans. It was,
until the close of the Middle Ages, the one route by which the East
and the West maintained commercial relations; for, although the trade
eastward from the Levant was by long and painful land journeys, over
mountain range and desert plain, water communication, in part and up
to that point, was afforded by the Mediterranean, and by it alone.
With the discovery of the passage by the Cape of Good Hope this
advantage departed, while at the same instant the discovery of a New
World opened out to the Old new elements of luxury and a new sphere of
ambition. Then the Mediterranean, thrown upon its own productive
resources alone, swayed in the East by the hopeless barbarism of the
Turk, in the West by the decadent despotism of Spain, and, between the
two, divided among a number of petty states, incapable of united and
consequently of potent action, sank into a factor of relatively small
consequence to the onward progress of the world. During the wars of
the French Revolution, when the life of Great Britain, and
consequently the issue of the strife, depended upon the vigor of
British commerce, British merchant shipping was nearly driven from
that sea; and but two per cent of a trade that was increasing mightily
all the time was thence derived. How the Suez Canal and the growth of
the Eastern Question, in its modern form, have changed all that, it is
needless to say. Yet, through all the period of relative
insignificance, the relations of the Mediterranean to the East and to
the West, in the broad sense of those expressions, preserved to it a
political importance to the world at large which rendered it
continuously a scene of great political ambitions and military
enterprise. Since Great Britain first actively intervened in those
waters, two centuries ago, she at no time has surrendered willingly
her pretensions to be a leading Mediterranean Power, although her
possessions there are of purely military, or rather naval, value.

The Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, taken together, form an
inland sea and an archipelago. They too have known those mutabilities
of fortune which receive illustration alike in the history of
countries and in the lives of individuals. The first scene of
discovery and of conquest in the New World, these twin sheets of
water, with their islands and their mainlands, became for many
generations, and nearly to our own time, a veritable El Dorado,--a
land where the least of labor, on the part of its new possessors,
rendered the largest and richest returns. The bounty of nature, and
the ease with which climatic conditions, aided by the unwarlike
character of most of the natives, adapted themselves to the
institution of slavery, insured the cheap and abundant production of
articles which, when once enjoyed, men found indispensable, as they
already had the silks and spices of the East. In Mexico and in Peru
were realized also, in degree, the actual gold-mine sought by the
avarice of the earlier Spanish explorers; while a short though
difficult tropical journey brought the treasures of the west coast
across the Isthmus to the shores of the broad ocean, nature's great
highway, which washed at once the shores of Old and of New Spain. From
the Caribbean, Great Britain, although her rivals had anticipated her
in the possession of the largest and richest districts, derived nearly
twenty-five per cent of her commerce, during the strenuous period when
the Mediterranean contributed but two per cent.

But over these fair regions too passed the blight, not of despotism
merely, for despotism was characteristic of the times, but of a
despotism which found no counteractive, no element of future
deliverance, in the temperament or in the political capacities of the
people over whom it ruled. Elizabeth, as far as she dared, was a
despot; Philip II. was a despot; but there was already manifest in her
subjects, while there was not in his, a will and a power not merely to
resist oppression, but to organize freedom. This will and this power,
after gaining many partial victories by the way, culminated once for
all in the American Revolution. Great Britain has never forgotten the
lesson then taught; for it was one she herself had been teaching for
centuries, and her people and statesmen were therefore easy learners.
A century and a quarter has passed since that warning was given, not
to Great Britain only, but to the world; and we to-day see, in the
contrasted colonial systems of the two states, the results, on the one
hand of political aptitude, on the other of political obtuseness and
backwardness, which cannot struggle from the past into the present
until the present in turn has become the past--irreclaimable.

Causes superficially very diverse but essentially the same, in that
they arose from and still depend upon a lack of local political
capacity, have brought the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, in our own
time, to similar conditions, regarded as quantities of interest in the
sphere of international relations. Whatever the intrinsic value of the
two bodies of water, in themselves or in their surroundings, whatever
their present contributions to the prosperity or to the culture of
mankind, their conspicuous characteristics now are their political and
military importance, in the broadest sense, as concerning not only the
countries that border them, but the world at large. Both are land-girt
seas; both are links in a chain of communication between an East and a
West; in both the chain is broken by an isthmus; both are of
contracted extent when compared with great oceans, and, in consequence
of these common features, both present in an intensified form the
advantages and the limitations, political and military, which
condition the influence of sea power. This conclusion is notably true
of the Mediterranean, as is shown by its history. It is even more
forcibly true of the Caribbean, partly because the contour of its
shores does not, as in the Mediterranean peninsulas, thrust the power
of the land so far and so sustainedly into the sea; partly because,
from historical antecedents already alluded to, in the character of
the first colonists, and from the shortness of the time the ground has
been in civilized occupation, there does not exist in the Caribbean or
in the Gulf of Mexico--apart from the United States--any land power at
all comparable with those great Continental states of Europe whose
strength lies in their armies far more than in their navies. So far as
national inclinations, as distinct from the cautious actions of
statesmen, can be discerned, in the Mediterranean at present the Sea
Powers, Great Britain, France, and Italy, are opposed to the Land
Powers, Germany, Austria, and Russia; and the latter dominate action.
It cannot be so, in any near future, in the Caribbean. As affirmed in
a previous paper, the Caribbean is pre-eminently the domain of sea
power. It is in this point of view--the military or naval--that it is
now to be considered. Its political importance will be assumed, as
recognized by our forefathers, and enforced upon our own attention by
the sudden apprehensions awakened within the last two years.

It may be well, though possibly needless, to ask readers to keep
clearly in mind that the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, while
knit together like the Siamese twins, are distinct geographical
entities. A leading British periodical once accused the writer of
calling the Gulf of Mexico the Caribbean Sea, because of his
unwillingness to admit the name of any other state in connection with
a body of water over which his own country claimed predominance. The
Gulf of Mexico is very clearly defined by the projection, from the
north, of the peninsula of Florida, and from the south, of that of
Yucatan. Between the two the island of Cuba interposes for a distance
of two hundred miles, leaving on one side a passage of nearly a
hundred miles wide--the Strait of Florida--into the Atlantic, while on
the other, the Yucatan Channel, somewhat broader, leads into the
Caribbean Sea. It may be mentioned here, as an important military
consideration, that from the mouth of the Mississippi westward to Cape
Catoche--the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula--there is no harbor that can
be considered at all satisfactory for ships of war of the larger
classes. The existence of many such harbors in other parts of the
regions now under consideration practically eliminates this long
stretch of coast, regarded as a factor of military importance in the
problem before us.

In each of these sheets of water, the Gulf of Mexico and the
Caribbean, there is one position of pre-eminent commercial importance.
In the Gulf the mouth of the Mississippi is the point where meet all
the exports and imports, by water, of the Mississippi Valley. However
diverse the directions from which they come, or the destinations to
which they proceed, all come together here as at a great crossroads,
or as the highways of an empire converge on the metropolis. Whatever
value the Mississippi and the myriad miles of its subsidiary
water-courses represent to the United States, as a facile means of
communication from the remote interior to the ocean highways of the
world, all centres here at the mouth of the river. The existence of
the smaller though important cities of the Gulf coast--Mobile,
Galveston, or the Mexican ports--does not diminish, but rather
emphasizes by contrast, the importance of the Mississippi entrance.
They all share its fortunes, in that all alike communicate with the
outside world through the Strait of Florida or the Yucatan Channel.

In the Caribbean, likewise, the existence of numerous important ports,
and a busy traffic in tropical produce grown within the region itself,
do but make more striking the predominance in interest of that one
position known comprehensively, but up to the present somewhat
indeterminately, as the Isthmus. Here again the element of decisive
value is the crossing of the roads, the meeting of the ways, which,
whether imposed by nature itself, as in the cases before us, or
induced, as sometimes happens, in a less degree, by simple human
dispositions, are prime factors in mercantile or strategic
consequence. For these reasons the Isthmus, even under the
disadvantages of land carriage and transshipment of goods, has ever
been an important link in the communications from East to West, from
the days of the first discoverers and throughout all subsequent
centuries, though fluctuating in degree from age to age; but when it
shall be pierced by a canal, it will present a maritime centre
analogous to the mouth of the Mississippi. They will differ in this,
that in the latter case the converging water routes on one side are
interior to a great state whose resources they bear, whereas the roads
which on either side converge upon the Isthmus lie wholly upon the
ocean, the common possession of all nations. Control of the latter,
therefore, rests either upon local control of the Isthmus itself, or,
indirectly, upon control of its approaches, or upon a distinctly
preponderant navy. In naval questions the latter is always the
dominant factor, exactly as on land the mobile army--the army in the
field--must dominate the question of fortresses, unless war is to be

We have thus the two centres round which revolve all the military study
of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The two sheets of water,
taken together, control or affect the approaches on one side to these
two supreme centres of commercial, and therefore of political and
military, interest. The approaches on the other side--the interior
communications of the Mississippi, that is, or the maritime routes
in the Pacific converging upon the Isthmus--do not here concern us.
These approaches, in terms of military art, are known as the
"communications." Communications are probably the most vital and
determining element in strategy, military or naval. They are literally
the most radical; for all military operations depend upon communications,
as the fruit of a plant depends upon communication with its root. We
draw therefore upon the map the chief lines by which communication
exists between these two centres and the outside world. Such lines
represent the mutual dependence of the centres and the exterior, by
which each ministers to the others, and by severance of which either
becomes useless to the others. It is from their potential effect upon
these lines of communication that all positions in the Gulf or the
Caribbean derive their military value, or want of value.

It is impossible to precede or to accompany a discussion of this sort
with a technical exposition of naval strategy. Such definitions of the
art as may be needed must be given _in loco_, cursorily and
dogmatically. Therefore it will be said here briefly that the
strategic value of any position, be it body of land large or small, or
a seaport, or a strait, depends, 1, upon situation (with reference
chiefly to communications), 2, upon its strength (inherent or
acquired), and, 3, upon its resources (natural or stored). As strength
and resources are matters which man can accumulate where suitable
situation offers, whereas he cannot change the location of a place in
itself otherwise advantageous, it is upon situation that attention
must primarily be fixed. Strength and resources may be artificially
supplied or increased, but it passes the power of man to move a port
which lies outside the limits of strategic effect. Gibraltar in
mid-ocean might have fourfold its present power, yet would be
valueless in a military sense.

The positions which are indicated on the map by the dark squares have
been selected, therefore, upon these considerations, after a careful
study of the inherent advantages of the various ports and coast-lines
of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf. It is by no means meant that there
are not others which possess merits of various kinds; or that those
indicated, and to be named, exhaust the strategic possibilities of the
region under examination. But there are qualifying circumstances of
degree in particular cases; and a certain regard must be had to
political conditions, which may be said to a great extent to
neutralize some positions. Some, too, are excluded because
overshadowed by others so near and so strong as practically to embrace
them, when under the same political tenure. Moreover, it is a
commonplace of strategy that passive positions, fortified places,
however strong, although indispensable as supports to military
operations, should not be held in great number. To do so wastes force.
Similarly, in the study of a field of maritime operations, the number
of available positions, whose relative and combined influence upon the
whole is to be considered, should be narrowed, by a process of gradual
elimination, to those clearly essential and representative. To embrace
more confuses the attention, wastes mental force, and is a hindrance
to correct appreciation. The rejection of details, where permissible,
and understandingly done, facilitates comprehension, which is baffled
by a multiplication of minutiae, just as the impression of a work of
art, or of a story, is lost amid a multiplicity of figures or of
actors. The investigation precedent to formulation of ideas must be
close and minute, but that done, the unbiassed selection of the most
important, expressed graphically by a few lines and a few dots, leads
most certainly to the comprehension of decisive relations in a
military field of action.

In the United States, Pensacola and the Mississippi River have been
rivals for the possession of a navy-yard. The recent decision of a
specially appointed board in favor of the latter, while it commands
the full assent of the writer, by no means eliminates the usefulness
of the former. Taken together, they fulfil a fair requirement of
strategy, sea and land, that operations based upon a national
frontier, which a coast-line is, should not depend upon a single place
only. They are closer together than ideal perfection would wish; too
easily, therefore, to be watched by an enemy without great dispersal
of his force, which Norfolk and New York, for instance, are not; but
still, conjointly, they are the best we can do on that line, having
regard to the draught of water for heavy ships. Key West, an island
lying off the end of the Florida Peninsula, has long been recognized
as the chief, and almost the only, good and defensible anchorage upon
the Strait of Florida, reasonable control of which is indispensable to
water communication between our Atlantic and Gulf seaboards in time of
war. In case of war in the direction of the Caribbean, Key West is the
extreme point now in our possession upon which, granting adequate
fortification, our fleets could rely; and, so used, it would
effectually divert an enemy's force from Pensacola and the
Mississippi. It can never be the ultimate base of operations, as
Pensacola or New Orleans can, because it is an island, a small island,
and has no resources--not even water; but for the daily needs of a
fleet--coal, ammunition, etc.--it can be made most effective. Sixty
miles west of it stands an antiquated fortress on the Dry Tortugas.
These are capable of being made a useful adjunct to Key West, but at
present they scarcely can be so considered. Key West is 550 miles
distant from the mouth of the Mississippi, and 1200 from the Isthmus.

The islands of Santa Lucia and of Martinique have been selected
because they represent the chief positions of, respectively, Great
Britain and France on the outer limits of the general field under
consideration. For the reasons already stated, Grenada, Barbadoes,
Dominica, and the other near British islands are not taken into
account, or rather are considered to be embraced in Santa Lucia, which
adequately represents them. If a secondary position on that line were
required, it would be at Antigua, which would play to Santa Lucia the
part which Pensacola does to the Mississippi. In like manner the
French Guadeloupe merges in Martinique. The intrinsic importance of
these positions consists in the fact that, being otherwise suitable
and properly defended, they are the nearest to the mother-countries,
between whom and themselves there lies no point of danger near which
it is necessary to pass. They have the disadvantage of being very
small islands, consequently without adequate natural resources, and
easy to be blockaded on all sides. They are therefore essentially
dependent for their usefulness in war upon control of the sea, which
neither Pensacola nor New Orleans is, having the continent at their

It is in this respect that the pre-eminent intrinsic advantages of
Cuba, or rather of Spain in Cuba, are to be seen; and also, but in
much less degree, those of Great Britain in Jamaica. Cuba, though
narrow throughout, is over six hundred miles long, from Cape San
Antonio to Cape Maysi. It is, in short, not so much an island as a
continent, susceptible, under proper development, of great
resources--of self-sufficingness. In area it is half as large again as
Ireland, but, owing to its peculiar form, is much more than twice as
long. Marine distances, therefore, are drawn out to an extreme degree.
Its many natural harbors concentrate themselves, to a military
examination, into three principal groups, whose representatives are,
in the west, Havana; in the east, Santiago; while near midway of the
southern shore lies Cienfuegos. The shortest water distance separating
any two of these is 335 miles, from Santiago to Cienfuegos. To get
from Cienfuegos to Havana 450 miles of water must be traversed and the
western point of the island doubled; yet the two ports are distant by
land only a little more than a hundred miles of fairly easy country.
Regarded, therefore, as a base of naval operations, as a source of
supplies to a fleet, Cuba presents a condition wholly unique among the
islands of the Caribbean and of the Gulf of Mexico; to both which it,
and it alone of all the archipelago, belongs. It is unique in its
size, which should render it largely self-supporting, either by its
own products, or by the accumulation of foreign necessaries which
naturally obtains in a large and prosperous maritime community; and it
is unique in that such supplies can be conveyed from one point to the
other, according to the needs of a fleet, by interior lines, not
exposed to risks of maritime capture. The extent of the coast-line,
the numerous harbors, and the many directions from which approach can
be made, minimize the dangers of total blockade, to which all islands
are subject. Such conditions are in themselves advantageous, but they
are especially so to a navy inferior to its adversary, for they convey
the power--subject, of course, to conditions of skill--of shifting
operations from side to side, and finding refuge and supplies in
either direction.

Jamaica, being but one-tenth the size of Cuba, and one-fifth of its
length, does not present the intrinsic advantages of the latter
island, regarded either as a source of supplies or as a centre from
which to direct effort; but when in the hands of a power supreme at
sea, as at the present Great Britain is, the questions of supplies, of
blockade, and of facility in direction of effort diminish in
importance. That which in the one case is a matter of life and death,
becomes now only an embarrassing problem, necessitating watchfulness
and precaution, but by no means insoluble. No advantages of position
can counterbalance, in the long-run, decisive inferiority in organized
mobile force,--inferiority in troops in the field, and yet much more
in ships on the sea. If Spain should become involved in war with Great
Britain, as she so often before has been, the advantage she would have
in Cuba as against Jamaica would be that her communications with the
United States, especially with the Gulf ports, would be well under
cover. By this is not meant that vessels bound to Cuba by such routes
would be in unassailable security; no communications, maritime or
terrestrial, can be so against raiding. What is meant is that they can
be protected with much less effort than they can be attacked; that the
raiders--the offence--must be much more numerous and active than the
defence, because much farther from their base; and that the question
of such raiding would depend consequently upon the force Great Britain
could spare from other scenes of war, for it is not likely that Spain
would fight her single-handed. It is quite possible that under such
conditions advantage of position would more than counterbalance a
_small_ disadvantage in local force. "War," said Napoleon, "is a
business of positions;" by which that master of lightning-like
rapidity of movement assuredly did not mean that it was a business of
getting into a position and sticking there. It is in the utilization
of position by mobile force that war is determined, just as the effect
of a chessman depends upon both its individual value _and_ its
relative position. While, therefore, in the combination of the two
factors, force and position, force is intrinsically the more valuable,
it is always possible that great advantage of position may outweigh
small advantage of force, as 1 + 5 is greater than 2 + 3. The
positional value of Cuba is extremely great.

Regarded solely as a naval position, without reference to the force
thereon based, Jamaica is greatly inferior to Cuba in a question of
general war, notwithstanding the fact that in Kingston it possesses an
excellent harbor and naval station. It is only with direct reference
to the Isthmus, and therefore to the local question of the Caribbean
as the main scene of hostilities, that it possesses a certain
superiority which will be touched on later. It is advisable first to
complete the list, and so far as necessary to account for the
selection, of the other points indicated by the squares.

Of these, three are so nearly together at the Isthmus that, according
to the rule before adopted, they might be reduced very properly to a
single representative position. Being, however, so close to the great
centre of interest in the Caribbean, and having different specific
reasons constituting their importance, it is essential to a full
statement of strategic conditions in that sea to mention briefly each
and all. They are, the harbor and town of Colon, sometimes called
Aspinwall; the harbor and city of Cartagena, 300 miles to the eastward
of Colon; and the Chiriqui Lagoon, 150 miles west of Colon, a vast
enclosed bay with many islands, giving excellent and diversified
anchorage, the shores of which are nearly uninhabited. Colon is the
Caribbean terminus of the Panama Railroad, and is also that of the
canal projected, and partly dug, under the De Lesseps scheme. The
harbor being good, though open to some winds, it is naturally
indicated as a point where Isthmian transit may begin or end. As there
is no intention of entering into the controversy about the relative
merits of the Panama and Nicaragua canal schemes, it will be
sufficient here to say that, if the former be carried through, Colon
is its inevitable issue on one side. The city of Cartagena is the
largest and most flourishing in the neighborhood of the Isthmus, and
has a good harbor. With these conditions obtaining, its advantage
rests upon the axiomatic principle that, other things being nearly
equal, a place where commerce centres is a better strategic position
than one which it neglects. The latter is the condition of the
Chiriqui Lagoon. This truly noble sheet of water, which was visited by
Columbus himself, and bears record of the fact in the name of one of
its basins,--the Bay of the Admiral,--has every natural adaptation for
a purely naval base, but has not drawn to itself the operations of
commerce. Everything would need there to be created, and to be
maintained continuously. It lies midway between Colon and the mouth of
the river San Juan, where is Greytown, which has been selected as the
issue of the projected Nicaragua Canal; and therefore, in a peculiar
way, Chiriqui symbolizes the present indeterminate phase of the
Isthmian problem. With all its latent possibilities, however, little
can be said now of Chiriqui, except that a rough appreciation of its
existence and character is essential to an adequate understanding of
Isthmian conditions.

The Dutch island of Curacao has been marked, chiefly because, with its
natural characteristics, it cannot be passed over; but it now is, and
it may be hoped will remain indefinitely, among the positions of which
it has been said that they are neutralized by political circumstances.
Curacao possesses a fine harbor, which may be made impregnable, and it
lies unavoidably near the route of any vessel bound to the Isthmus and
passing eastward of Jamaica. Such conditions constitute undeniable
military importance; but Holland is a small state, unlikely to join
again in a general war. There is, indeed, a floating apprehension that
the German Empire, in its present desires of colonial extension, may
be willing to absorb Holland, for the sake of her still extensive
colonial possessions. Improbable as this may seem, it is scarcely more
incomprehensible than the recent mysterious movements upon the
European chess-board, attributed by common rumor to the dominating
influence of the Emperor of Germany, which we puzzled Americans for
months past have sought in vain to understand.

The same probable neutrality must be admitted for the remaining
positions that have been distinguished: Mujeres Island, Samana Bay,
and the island of St. Thomas. The first of these, at the extremity of
the Yucatan Peninsula, belongs to Mexico, a country whose interest in
the Isthmian question is very real; for, like the United States, she
has an extensive seaboard both upon the Pacific and--in the Gulf of
Mexico--upon the Atlantic Ocean. Mujeres Island, however, has nothing
to offer but situation, being upon the Yucatan Passage, the one road
from all the Gulf ports to the Caribbean and the Isthmus. The
anchorage is barely tolerable, the resources _nil_, and defensive
strength could be imparted only by an expense quite disproportionate
to the result obtained. The consideration of the island as a possible
military situation does but emphasize the fact, salient to the most
superficial glance, that, so far as position goes, Cuba has no
possible rival in her command of the Yucatan Passage, just as she has
no competitor, in point of natural strength and resources, for the
control of the Florida Strait, which connects the Gulf of Mexico with
the Atlantic.

Samana Bay, at the northeast corner of Santo Domingo, is but one of
several fine anchorages in that great island, whose territory is now
divided between two negro republics--French and Spanish in tongue. Its
selection to figure in our study, to the exclusion of the others, is
determined by its situation, and by the fact that we are seeking to
take a comprehensive glance of the Caribbean as a whole, and not
merely of particular districts. For instance, it might be urged
forcibly, in view of the existence of two great naval ports like
Santiago de Cuba and Port Royal in Jamaica, close to the Windward
Passage, through which lies the direct route from the Atlantic
seaboard to the Isthmus, that St. Nicholas Mole, immediately on the
Passage, offers the natural position for checking the others in case
of need. The reply is that we are not seeking to check anything or
anybody, but simply examining in the large the natural strategic
features, and incidentally thereto noting the political conditions, of
a maritime region in which the United States is particularly
interested; political conditions, as has been remarked, having an
unavoidable effect upon military values.

The inquiry being thus broad, Samana Bay and the island of St. Thomas
are entitled to the pre-eminence here given to them, because they
represent, efficiently and better than any other positions, the
control of two principal passages into the Caribbean Sea from the
Atlantic. The Mona Passage, on which Samana lies, between Santo
Domingo and Puerto Rico, is particularly suited to sailing-vessels
from the northward, because free from dangers to navigation. This, of
course, in these days of steam, is a small matter militarily; in the
latter sense the Mona Passage is valuable because it is an alternative
to the Windward Passage, or to those to the eastward, in case of
hostile predominance in one quarter or the other. St. Thomas is on the
Anegada Passage, actually much used, and which better than any other
represents the course from Europe to the Isthmus, just as the Windward
Passage does that from the North American Atlantic ports. Neither of
these places can boast of great natural strength nor of resources; St.
Thomas, because it is a small island with the inherent weaknesses
attending all such, which have been mentioned; Samana Bay, because,
although the island on which it is is large and productive, it has not
now, and gives no hope of having, that political stability and
commercial prosperity which bring resources and power in their train.
Both places would need also considerable development of defensive
works to meet the requirements of a naval port. Despite these defects,
their situations on the passages named entitle them to paramount
consideration in a general study of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of
Mexico. Potentially, though not actually, they lend control of the
Mona and Anegada Passages, exactly as Kingston and Santiago do of the

For, granting that the Isthmus is in the Caribbean the predominant
interest, commercial, and therefore concerning the whole world, but
also military, and so far possessing peculiar concern for those
nations whose territories lie on both oceans, which it now severs and
will one day unite--of which nations the United States is the most
prominent--granting this, and it follows that entrance to the
Caribbean, and transit across the Caribbean to the Isthmus, are two
prime essentials to the enjoyment of the advantages of the latter.
Therefore, in case of war, control of these two things becomes a
military object not second to the Isthmus itself, access to which
depends upon them; and in their bearing upon these two things the
various positions that are passed under consideration must be
viewed--individually first, and afterwards collectively.

The first process of individual consideration the writer has asked the
reader to take on faith; neither time nor space permits its
elaboration here; but the reasons for choosing those that have been
named have been given as briefly as possible. Let us now look at the
map, and regard as a collective whole the picture there graphically

Putting to one side, for the moment at least, the Isthmian points, as
indicating the end rather than the precedent means, we see at the
present time that the positions at the extremes of the field under
examination are held by Powers of the first rank,--Martinique and
Santa Lucia by France and Great Britain, Pensacola and the Mississippi
by the United States.

Further, there are held by these same states of the first order two
advanced positions, widely separated from the first bases of their
power; namely, Key West, which is 460 miles from Pensacola, and
Jamaica, which is 930 miles from Santa Lucia. From the Isthmus, Key
West is distant 1200 miles; Jamaica, 500 miles.

Between and separating these two groups, of primary bases and advanced
posts, extends the chain of positions from Yucatan to St. Thomas. As
far as is possible to position, apart from mobile force, these
represent control over the northern entrances--the most important
entrances--into the Caribbean Sea. No one of this chain belongs to any
of the Powers commonly reckoned as being of the first order of

The entrances on the north of the sea, as far as, but not including,
the Anegada Passage, are called the most important, because they are
so few in number,--a circumstance which always increases value;
because they are so much nearer to the Isthmus; and, very especially
to the United States, because they are the ones by which, and by which
alone,--except at the cost of a wide circuit,--she communicates with
the Isthmus, and, generally, with all the region lying within the
borders of the Caribbean.

In a very literal sense the Caribbean is a mediterranean sea; but
the adjective must be qualified when comparison is made with the
Mediterranean of the Old World or with the Gulf of Mexico. The
last-named bodies of water communicate with the outer oceans by passages
so contracted as to be easily watched from near-by positions, and for
both there exist such positions of exceptional strength,--Gibraltar
and some others in the former case, Havana and no other in the latter.
The Caribbean, on the contrary, is enclosed on its eastern side by
a chain of small islands, the passages between which, although
practically not wider than the Strait of Gibraltar, are so numerous
that entrance to the sea on that side may be said correctly to extend
over a stretch of near 400 miles. The islands, it is true, are so many
positions, some better, some worse, from which military effort to
control entrance can be exerted; but their number prevents that
concentration and that certainty of effect which are possible to
adequate force resting upon Gibraltar or Havana.

On the northern side of the sea the case is quite different. From the
western end of Cuba to the eastern end of Puerto Rico extends a
barrier of land for 1200 miles--as against 400 on the east--broken
only by two straits, each fifty miles wide, from side to side of which
a steamer of but moderate power can pass in three or four hours. These
natural conditions, governing the approach to the Isthmus, reproduce
as nearly as possible the strategic effect of Ireland upon Great
Britain. There a land barrier of 300 miles, midway between the
Pentland Firth and the English Channel--centrally situated, that is,
with reference to all the Atlantic approaches to Great Britain--gives
to an adequate navy a unique power to flank and harass either the one
or the other, or both. Existing political conditions and other
circumstances unquestionably modify the importance of these two
barriers, relatively to the countries affected by them. Open
communication with the Atlantic is vital to Great Britain, which the
Isthmus, up to the present time, is not to the United States. There
are, however, varying degrees of importance below that which is vital.
Taking into consideration that of the 1200-mile barrier to the
Caribbean 600 miles is solid in Cuba, that after the 50-mile gap of
the Windward Passage there succeeds 300 miles more of Haiti before the
Mona Passage is reached, it is indisputable that a superior navy,
resting on Santiago de Cuba or Jamaica, could very seriously incommode
all access of the United States to the Caribbean mainland, and
especially to the Isthmus.

In connection with this should be considered also the influence upon
our mercantile and naval communication between the Atlantic and the
Gulf coasts exercised by the peninsula of Florida, and by the
narrowness of the channels separating the latter from the Bahama Banks
and from Cuba. The effect of this long and not very broad strip of
land upon our maritime interests can be realized best by imagining it
wholly removed, or else turned into an island by a practicable channel
crossing its neck. In the latter case the two entrances to the channel
would have indeed to be assured; but our shipping would not be forced
to pass through a long, narrow waterway, bordered throughout on one
side by foreign and possibly hostile territories. In case of war with
either Great Britain or Spain, this channel would be likely to be
infested by hostile cruisers, close to their own base, the very best
condition for a commerce-destroying war; and its protection by us
under present circumstances will exact a much greater effort than with
the supposed channel, or than if the Florida Peninsula did not exist.
The effect of the peninsula is to thrust our route from the Atlantic
to the Gulf 300 miles to the southward, and to make imperative a base
for control of the strait; while the case is made worse by an almost
total lack of useful harbors. On the Atlantic, the most exposed side,
there is none; and on the Gulf none nearer to Key West than 175
miles,[2] where we find Tampa Bay. There is, indeed, nothing that can
be said about the interests of the United States in an Isthmian canal
that does not apply now with equal force to the Strait of Florida. The
one links the Atlantic to the Gulf, as the other would the Atlantic to
the Pacific. It may be added here that the phenomenon of the long,
narrow peninsula of Florida, with its strait, is reproduced
successively in Cuba, Haiti, and Puerto Rico, with the passages
dividing them. The whole together forms one long barrier, the
strategic significance of which cannot be overlooked in its effect
upon the Caribbean; while the Gulf of Mexico is assigned to absolute
seclusion by it, if the passages are in hostile control.

    [2] There is Charlotte Harbor, at 120 miles, but it can be used
    only by medium-sized vessels.

The relations of the island of Jamaica to the great barrier formed by
Cuba, Haiti, and Puerto Rico are such as to constitute it the natural
stepping-stone by which to pass from the consideration of entrance
into the Caribbean, which has been engaging our attention, to that of
the transit across, from entrance to the Isthmus, which we must next

In the matters of entrance to the Caribbean, and of general interior
control of that sea, Jamaica has a singularly central position. It is
equidistant (500 miles) from Colon, from the Yucatan Channel, and from
the Mona Passage; it is even closer (450 miles) to the nearest
mainland of South America at Point Gallinas, and of Central America at
Cape Gracias-a-Dios; while it lies so immediately in rear of the
Windward Passage that its command of the latter can scarcely be
considered less than that of Santiago. The analogy of its situation,
as a station for a great fleet, to that for an army covering a
frontier which is passable at but a few points, will scarcely escape a
military reader. A comparatively short chain of swift lookout
steamers, in each direction, can give timely notice of any approach by
either of the three passages named; while, if entrance be gained at
any other point, the arms stretched out towards Gallinas and
Gracias-a-Dios will give warning of transit before the purposes of
such transit can be accomplished undisturbed.

With such advantages of situation, and with a harbor susceptible of
satisfactory development as a naval station for a great fleet, Jamaica
is certainly the most important single position in the Caribbean Sea.
When one recalls that it passed into the hands of Great Britain, in
the days of Cromwell, by accidental conquest, the expedition having
been intended primarily against Santo Domingo; that in the two
centuries and a half which have since intervened it has played no part
adequate to its advantages, such as now looms before it; that, by all
the probabilities, it should have been reconquered and retained by
Spain in the war of the American Revolution; and when, again, it is
recalled that a like accident and a like subsequent uncertainty
attended the conquest and retention of the decisive Mediterranean
positions of Gibraltar and Malta, one marvels whether incidents so
widely separated in time and place, all tending towards one end--the
maritime predominance of Great Britain--can be accidents, or are
simply the exhibition of a Personal Will, acting through all time,
with purpose deliberate and consecutive, to ends not yet discerned.

Nevertheless, when compared to Cuba, Jamaica cannot be considered the
preponderant position of the Caribbean. The military question of
position is quantitative as well as qualitative; and situation,
however excellent, can rarely, by itself alone, make full amends for
defect in the power and resources which are the natural property of
size--of mass. Gibraltar, the synonym of intrinsic strength, is an
illustration in point; its smallness, its isolation, and its
barrenness of resource constitute limits to its offensive power, and
even to its impregnability, which are well understood by military men.
Jamaica, by its situation, flanks the route from Cuba to the Isthmus,
as indeed it does all routes from the Atlantic and the Gulf to that
point; but, as a military entity, it is completely overshadowed by the
larger island, which it so conspicuously confronts. If, as has just
been said, it by situation intercepts the access of Cuba to the
Isthmus, it is itself cut off by its huge neighbor from secure
communication with the North American Continent, now as always the
chief natural source of supplies for the West Indies, which do not
produce the great staples of life. With the United States friendly or
neutral, in a case of war, there can be no comparison between the
advantages of Cuba, conferred by its situation and its size, and those
of Jamaica, which, by these qualities of its rival, is effectually cut
off from that source of supplies. Nor is the disadvantage of Jamaica
less marked with reference to communication with other quarters than
the United States--with Halifax, with Bermuda, with Europe. Its
distance from these points, and from Santa Lucia, where the resources
of Europe may be said to focus for it, makes its situation one of
extreme isolation; a condition emphasized by the fact that both
Bermuda and Santa Lucia are themselves dependent upon outside sources
for anything they may send to Jamaica. At all these points, coal, the
great factor of modern naval war, must be stored and the supply
maintained. They do not produce it. The mere size of Cuba, the amount
of population which it has, or ought to have, the number of its
seaports, the extent of the industries possible to it, tend naturally
to an accumulation of resources such as great mercantile communities
always entail. These, combined with its nearness to the United States,
and its other advantages of situation, make Cuba a position that can
have no military rival among the islands of the world, except Ireland.
With a friendly United States, isolation is impossible to Cuba.

The aim of any discussion such as this should be to narrow down, by a
gradual elimination, the various factors to be considered, in order
that the decisive ones, remaining, may become conspicuously visible.
The trees being thus thinned out, the features of the strategic
landscape can appear. The primary processes in the present case have
been carried out before seeking the attention of the reader, to whom
the first approximations have been presented under three heads. First,
the two decisive centres, the mouth of the Mississippi and the
Isthmus. Second, the four principal routes, connecting these two
points with others, have been specified; these routes being, 1,
between the Isthmus and the Mississippi themselves; 2, from the
Isthmus to the North American coast, by the Windward Passage; 3, from
the Gulf of Mexico to the North American coast, by the Strait of
Florida; and, 4, from the Isthmus to Europe, by the Anegada Passage.
Third, the principal military positions throughout the region in
question have been laid down, and their individual and relative
importance indicated.

From the subsequent discussion it seems evident that, as
"communications" are so leading an element in strategy, the position
or positions which decisively affect the greatest number or extent of
the communications will be the most important, so far as situation
goes. Of the four principal lines named, three pass close to, and are
essentially controlled by, the islands of Cuba and Jamaica, namely,
from the Mississippi to the Isthmus by the Yucatan Channel, from the
Mississippi to the Atlantic coast of America by the Strait of Florida,
and from the Isthmus to the Atlantic coast by the Windward Passage.
The fourth route, which represents those from the Isthmus to Europe,
passes nearer to Jamaica than to Cuba; but those two islands exercise
over it more control than does any other one of the archipelago, for
the reason that any other can be avoided more easily, and by a wider
interval, than either Jamaica or Cuba.

Regarded as positions, therefore, these two islands are the real
rivals for control of the Caribbean and of the Gulf of Mexico; and it
may be added that the strategic centre of interest for both Gulf and
Caribbean is to be found in the Windward Passage, because it furnishes
the ultimate test of the relative power of the two islands to control
the Caribbean. For, as has been said before, and cannot be repeated
too often, it is not position only, nor chiefly, but mobile force,
that is decisive in war. In the combination of these two elements
rests the full statement of any case. The question of position has
been adjudged in favor of Cuba, for reasons which have been given. In
the case of a conflict between the powers holding the two islands, the
question of controlling the Windward Passage would be the test of
relative mobile strength; because that channel is the shortest and
best line of communications for Jamaica with the American coast, with
Halifax, and with Bermuda, and as such it must be kept open. If the
power of Jamaica is not great enough to hold the passage open by
force, she is thrown upon evasion--upon furtive measures--to maintain
essential supplies; for, if she cannot assert her strength so far in
that direction, she cannot, from her nearness, go beyond Cuba's reach
in any direction. Abandonment of the best road in this case means
isolation; and to that condition, if prolonged, there is but one

The final result, therefore, may be stated in this way: The advantages
of situation, strength, and resources are greatly and decisively in
favor of Cuba. To bring Jamaica to a condition of equality, or
superiority, is needed a mobile force capable of keeping the Windward
Passage continuously open, not only for a moment, nor for any
measurable time, but throughout the war. Under the present conditions
of political tenure, in case of a war involving only the two states
concerned, such a question could admit of no doubt; but in a war at
all general, involving several naval powers, the issue would be less
certain. In the war of 1778 the tenure, not of the Windward Passage
merely, but of Jamaica itself, was looked upon by a large party in
Great Britain as nearly hopeless; and it is true that only a happy
concurrence of blundering and bad luck on the part of its foes then
saved the island. It is conceivable that odds which have happened once
may happen again.


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Present and Future, by A. T. Mahan


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